[3RD ALLOTTED DAY.]
Report (12Th March)
Army Estimates, 1940
Number Of Land Forces
1. "That such number of Land Forces of all ranks, as His Majesty may deem necessary, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom at Home and abroad, exclusive of India and Burma, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941."
Pay, Etc, Of The Army
2. "That a sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Pay, &c., of the Army, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941."
Army Supplementary Estimate, 1939
Additional Number Of Land Forces
3. "That such additional number of Land Forces of all ranks, as His Majesty may deem necessary, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom at Home and abroad, exclusive of India and Burma, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940."
Civil (Excesses), 1938
4. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,162 4s. 8d., be granted to His Majesty, to make good Excesses on certain Grants for Civil Departments for the year ended the 31st day of March, 1939:
|Class and Vote.||Amount to be Voted.|
|Vote 7.||Overseas Settlement||1,052||3||6|
|Vote 12.||Miscellaneous Legal Expenses.||2,100||1||2|
|Vote 6.||Office of works and Public Buildings.||10||0||0"|
Navy (Excess) 1938
5. "That a sum, not exceeding £35,307 17s. 9d., be granted to His Majesty, to make good excesses of Navy Expenditure beyond the grants for the year ended the 31st day of March, 1939."
|No. of Vote.||Navy Services, 1938, Votes.||Deficits.||Surpluses.|
|Excesses of actual over estimated gross Expenditure.||Deficiencies of actual as compared with estimated Receipts.||Surpluses of estimated over actual gross Expenditure.||Surpluses of actual as compared with estimated Receipts.|
|1||Wages, etc., of Officers, and Men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and Civilians employed on Fleet Services.||157,694||15||3||—||—||25,773||1||2|
|2||Victualling and Clothing for the Navy.||119,481||17||2||—||—||115,151||12||4|
|3||Medical Establishments and Services.||20,957||18||5||—||—||2,645||13||5|
|4||Fleet Air Arm||…||…||—||—||—||—|
|7||Royal Naval Reserves.||…||—||69||2||11||15,369||8||2||—|
|8||Shipbuilding, Repairs, Maintenance, etc.:|
|Sec. 1. Personnel||…||119,646||13||11||—||—||65,667||6||11|
|Sec. 2. Matériel||…||—||353,839||5||7||487,240||4||7||—|
|Sec. 3. Contract Work||65,686||6||3||12,239||6||9||—||—|
|10||Works, Buildings, and Repairs at Home and Abroad.||—||9,299||0||8||36,763||4||11||—|
|11||Miscellaneous Effective Services.||80,579||18||8||—||—||14,156||11||0|
|13||Non-Effective Services (Naval and Marine), Officers.||—||—||3,091||17||7||1,791||7||0|
|14||Non-Effective Services (Naval and Marine), Men.||12,316||17||4||—||—||5,273||5||3|
|15||Civil Superannuation, Allowances, and Gratuities.||—||—||55,284||9||8||1||9||11|
|—||Balances irrecoverable and Claims abandoned.||1,184||19||2||—||—||—|
|£1,346,377 9 9||£1,346,377 9 9"|
First Resolution read a Second time.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
I regret that on the Report stage those of us who are on this side of the House cannot follow the usual practice of discussing in general the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War made on Tuesday and of dealing as we would like to do with some of the things concerning the Forces. It may be, of course, that other Members will want to discuss some of these matters, but in view of the very important statement that the right hon. Gentleman made in respect of allowances, we wish to concentrate on the statement he made with regard to concessions, and to try and measure their effect upon the people who are going to receive them. It will be remembered by the House that the right hon. Gentleman made a very thorough statement follow- ing a promise he made some weeks ago to give consideration to the question of these allowances. Might I say, as one who was here when the last Debate on allowances took place, that both I and my colleagues appreciate the fact that the right hon. Gentleman sat through the whole of that Debate, which was on the Adjournment, and listened very patiently to the complaints that were made on that occasion. That was refreshing, because it had appeared to us—and I think the House had become generally conscious of it—that the heads of Departments, since the war, were not putting in too much time on the occasion of Adjournment Debates.The right hon. Gentleman said, on that occasion, that he would give consideration to the points raised in the Debate, and it would be less than just if we were not to say that he has carried out that promise. Although it does not give full satisfaction to those on this side of the House, it is only right to say that we appreciate the fact that he has, obviously, thoroughly gone over the whole system of allowances and made some concessions. These concessions have, rightly, received a good deal of public notice because of their effect upon the lives of the mass of humble people. But I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will agree that the conditions of the allowances to the dependants of soldiers are so complicated that it is important that we should closely examine them in order to see what has been done and what has been left undone. I think it is important that the beneficiaries should understand what they are likely to receive, and it is also important that the House and the country should not be misled on the point that, in spite of these concessions, there will still be large numbers of dependants to whom they will mean nothing at all. The right hon. Gentleman gave a good deal of attention to the points we raised concerning the very strong bar that was put up against any parent receiving a pension unless the father was incapable of earning his living. It would be almost true to say that it is practically impossible under the old conditions for any parent to receive an allowance. Up and down the country fathers and mothers have been to Members, or written to them, complaining that they were refused an allowance and that the paymaster used to write them a short note simply saying he had decided that no allowance was admissible in their case. Under the old conditions that was almost a farce, and I am glad to say the right hon. Gentleman has put that matter right. He has broken down the barrier of incapability. But I am not quite so sure what will be the total result of that action. The Financial Secretary to the War Office told us in the Debate the other night that about 20 per cent. of the claims which had been rejected would now be admitted as a result of this change. I hope so, and in view of the lack of general statistics on this matter we shall have to take that statement as a fact. That is a concession for which we are not ungrateful, because it concerns a really vital matter, and we can only express the hope that the figure which was given by the Financial Secretary will be confirmed in practice. I should like to ask what will be the awards in these cases. Does this mean that parents will get awards of 12s. or 17s.? That, I take it, all depends on the amount which the son had been contributing towards the home, and on whether or not he had made an allotment. On the question of allotments, let me refer to the statement of the Financial Secretary to the War Office on Tuesday night to the effect that there were some 50,000 young men who were making no allotments. We have always to bear in mind the fact that in this Army, as the result of conscription, which applies to all without regard to class or anything else, there must be a large number of young men who come from professional families and whose fathers are in receipt of good incomes. One can understand that young men in those cases do not make any allotments. I notice that the Secretary of State for War shakes his head. I do not deny that in some cases—
I think the hon. Gentleman is misinterpreting the statement of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office. He did not say that 50,000 young men were not making allotments. He said there were 50,000 who had claimed dependants' allowances and that as those allowances had been refused, the men had then said they would not make allotments themselves.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that explanation. I had not time to look up the OFFICIAL REPORT of the speech of the Financial Secretary to the War Office. All I know is that the statement, as I have made it, appeared in the newspapers without any modification, and I am pleased to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I know that there are odd cases in which young men have not made allotments and in which I think allotments ought to have been made. That is probably the experience of every Member of this House. But having said that, I think it is to the credit of the young men of this country that in the great mass of cases they have deprived themselves of spending power, in order to make, at least, the minimum allowance laid down by the War Office. I should not quibble about the demand that allotments should be made before allowances are made, because if young men do not think it worth while to allot something then it shows that they have no regard for their homes. In the last war many men were left with less than 3s. 6d. for themselves. Some of us have had experience in that connection.It will be interesting to see how this matter works out in practice and what awards will be given. I only hope that it will prove to be the case that 20 per cent. of cases which have hitherto been refused will now receive allowances as a result of this concession. I, for one, do not belittle the concession. It must be borne in mind that we have, so to speak, started from scratch in the matter of these allowances, and I must confess that in view of the small amount of notice which was taken of previous criticisms on this matter, I almost despaired that any proper notice would be taken of it until there was a real appeal from the country, as a result of the feeling which was undoubtedly growing. I am glad, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman has taken notice of our representations. The right hon. Gentleman also told us that the widows' allowance would be raised from 20s. 6d. to 24s. in the cases of those who were living alone. We would like to know the exact value of that concession in terms of money. For instance, if a widow who is in receipt of a pension of 10s. a week has two sons in the Army—and that is the kind of case with which one meets rather too often—and those two sons have allotted her 7s. a week each that means that the widow, with her pension, is getting a total of 24s. a week. Does that also mean that she receives nothing under this concession? I expect the right hon. Gentleman will give us an explicit answer upon that question later. There is some doubt in the minds of hon. Members upon this point. We are grateful for the White Paper which does much to simplify these conditions, so that people can come nearer to understanding them than was possible before. On page 5 the White Paper sets out the case of a household in which certain factors are to be disregarded. First, there is rent; secondly, there is the first 5s. of sick pay from a friendly society; thirdly, the first 7s. 6d. a week of any benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts; fourthly, the first £1 of any wound or disability pension; and, fifthly, half any weekly payment by way of compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act. Do these apply in the case of the widow? It does not seem to me that they are applicable in those cases. If they are not, it means that although the right hon. Gentleman has increased the amount which a widow can receive if she is living by herself, yet, if she has two sons in the Army, the concession means nothing to her. In similar cases, in which rents of 12s. to 14s. had to be paid, I found that women had to go to the public assistance officer for help, which is a shameful state of affairs. As I said in the last Debate, the woman who has lost her husband has often a great struggle to bring up her family. Boys often declare that when they grow to be men they will do great things for their mothers but it is just at the time when a boy really becomes useful, when he would be able to make easier the lot of a widowed mother, and give her some reward for her labour and patience in bringing up a family without the help of a husband in the home, which is a big moral as well as economic factor—it is just at that time, that these boys are, by law, taken away from their homes. Is it right that a widow in such a case should receive nothing by way of compensation for the loss of those boys? I do not think any Member of this House would deny that women in those circumstances are entitled to a definite allowance. I fear, in spite of the concession which the right hon. Gentleman has made, that in cases such as I have described a woman will receive nothing in respect of her sons having been taken into the Army. Suppose one son goes to the Army and another is left. Then the means test comes into operation. In fact, the woman would receive nothing under those conditions. This is one of the outstanding instances in which, despite the right hon. Gentleman's sympathy, these arrangements will work out in practice in such a way that those who ought to be recipients of allowances will get no satisfaction at all from the concession. The right hon. Gentleman settled, I think to the satisfaction of most Members, the question of separated wives. That was a great grievance, and I would like to put one point to him concerning it. Most Members know what was happening previously. I do not know what is the new name which it has been decided to apply in these cases—
"Unmarried dependants living as wives."
That is a very useful definition, but rather long to be memorised easily. The real trouble in the case of the separated wife was that she did not get the amount which had been granted to her by the court. The right hon. Gentleman has settled that, and I, for one, am pleased. The decision has given satisfaction and has relieved Members of the House of a great deal of correspondence. But magistrates, when making these court orders, were accustomed to allow for changes in circumstances, such as changes in wages and definite changes of that description. There has undoubtedly been an increase in the cost of living since most of these orders were made, and I wonder whether it would not be possible to take that fact into consideration. I do not want to be considered unthankful for what has been done, but as we are resolving ourselves into a kind of committee, to pool our experiences and to examine these concessions and their effect in the light of experience, I think it would be well to take note of the fact which I have mentioned with a view to its consideration later. Dependants may receive more than one allowance. That, again, is an advance.There is the position of dependants of apprentices and students. The right hon. Gentleman has decided that the case of apprentices who might have finished their time and would have advanced, had it not been for the war, to full-time workmen's wage, and also the case of students, shall go to a central committee which is considering all these matters. Has he also considered that in ordinary industry there are masses of youths who receive a wage very often based on their age and that in a few weeks or months they would have been receiving perhaps 1s. a day or more increase as a result of age? But there is a still more vital thing. There are lots of youths, particularly in the mines, but generally I think throughout industry, who have gone into the Army, who were day-wage workers, but who in a short time would have become piece-rate workers. That means quite a big difference to their home. I think these young men should have the same opportunity of going to this central committee for consideration as apprentices and students. It seems to me that this is the kind of thing which ought to be dealt with by some local committee rather than by the Central War Emergency Committee. On our local authorities are people of great experience; they know the localities and sometimes the families concerned. As a rule you can get indirect as well as direct knowledge of working conditions, wage standards and the families concerned, which would be far more useful in dealing with these problems than any knowledge you can get in a central committee sitting in London. I think the right hon. Gentleman would be wise to take note of the requests which have been made that some sort of local committee should deal with these matters before they arrive at the central committee. In the last war the old age pensions committee dealt with them. It was formed largely of councilors and co-opted people. They brought a very wide experience to bear on these matters, and it will be admitted that they did extremely useful work. I am afraid that this central committee will be blocked up with work. As a matter of fact, it is blocked up now with cases from all over the country which it has to survey. It is overworked and lacking proper time to deal with the mass of cases which are brought before it. From the point of view of bringing practical experience and some human warmth into the problems which will arise from allowances, I think the right hon. Gentleman would be wise to take note of the requests, which have been made repeatedly from this side of the House, that some local committee should be called into being to examine these proposals. The outstanding thing about all these concessions is that the household means test still stands. I have tried to bring some sort of measured judgment upon the concessions which have been made. I am not unmindful of the fact that one-fifth of the earnings of each member of the household is now to be disregarded; that is a concession on the household means test, but we have this household means test again in dealing with the question of allowances. It seems now to be ubiquitous. It turns up everywhere, and it is fast becoming a dominant principle in our social legislation. Indeed, it is fast becoming a dominant issue in the country. Its effect on family life is one which ought to receive careful consideration. First we had it in unemployment, then we got it with old age pensions, and now it comes in again in allowances, and, later on, we believe it is going to be applied to workmen's compensation. We deal with this as a social and economic issue, but I confess that I am very much disturbed about its effects upon that vital thing in our national life, the family. Whichever way you look at it, it has a disintegrating effect. In this case, if a boy allots 7s. and the income of the family is a certain amount per head, his family gets nothing. You have men now facing the enemy who are conscious of the fact that although they are making a decent allotment from their wages, their services to their families are completely ignored. One of the things of which we have all been proud is the place the family holds in our social and national life. I do not say that the bond is merely financial or economic, but in various ways this does affect the spiritual bond of the family, and I say that we should get some impartial investigation into the result of the operation of this principle of the household means test upon that vital thing in our national life called the family. Indeed, if this principle had been extended in peace-time from unemployment, I think there would have been a great upheaval in the country. There is undoubtedly much feeling about it, because it is felt that the opportunity of the war has been taken to extend this principle to these allowances with its derogatory effects upon family standards. The practice in the last war was altogether different. The only thing of which notice was taken was the contribution towards the home before the soldier went into the Army. There was no means test. The one standard was the contribution made by the soldier before he went into the Army.
There was a limit.
There was a limit, it is true, and the right hon. Gentleman can tell us what it was, but all that I can say is that I wish the same practice applied now as applied in the last war. And for a certain reason. If the War Office cannot get rid of this household means test, which the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall) proved by figures was worse in this case than in unemployment, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should give serious consideration to a minimum flat-rate allowance for soldiers. I shall not discuss the question of pensions, but allowances have an indirect effect, and I make that suggestion because the right hon. Gentleman has said that the Minister for Pensions is going to consider certain aspects of this matter. When I last spoke I had a handful of cases, some of them of sons who had been lost in the sinking of the "Royal Oak." There was one case in particular of a mother in Hartlepool who lost two sons in the "Royal Oak," who had allotted her 7s. each. That mother lost not only her sons but her income of 14s., and no pension has been granted in her case.Although we cannot discuss that matter, the fact remains that there is no guarantee that parents will receive anything when sons are lost. As a matter of fact, it is a certainty that, according to the present principles, they will get nothing, unless some alteration is made. I want the right hon. Gentleman to give very serious consideration to the question of a minimum flat-rate allowance, where there is an allotment, of course. The fact is that, in spite of the sympathy which the right hon. Gentleman has shown in this matter, there will still be masses of people who will get no allowances. Although I am as pleased as anyone can be with the concessions that have been made, and appreciate those concessions, I am afraid that the general impression that was given to the country was that almost automatically allowances would be paid to a great number of families which are not receiving them at the present time; but I repeat that masses of people will get no allowances. I warn the right hon. Gentleman that there will be disappointment in the country when the real facts come to be known, and that great dissatisfaction and a sense of injury will be felt by those who have sons in the Army. I should say that at least half of the men in the Army are single men. These young men are giving of their best, as their fathers did. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give further consideration to this problem of allowances, and to give some consideration to parents whose sons have been taken from them and who have lost their income at an important stage in their lives. It is one thing for well-to-do families, but it is quite another thing for humble working-class families to have their sons taken from them at a time when, naturally, they expect to get some little benefit from those sons. Fathers and mothers labour hard and save very little when their boys are young; at that time it is all expenditure; but they look forward to the time when their boys will be able to give them some little benefit, and indeed it is in those years that, as a rule, the parents manage to save what little they can for their old age. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to keep an open mind on this business, to take note of the criticism that has been made in all good faith and based upon experience, to bring his sympathy to bear once more upon this problem, and He be just as thorough in dealing with the grievances that will emerge as the result of the application of these concessions as he has been in overhauling this system within a very short time of his coming into office. If he does that, he will merit the good will and sympathy of the House in connection with a problem which has been obscured by the vast events of the war, but which nevertheless is very real and vital to great masses of our people.
Despite the criticisms which the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has directed to the financial provisions for dependants, I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may well be gratified by the general approval with which the greater part of his speech was received. I consider that the explanation of that is to be found in the amount of attention which he devoted to what I may call the more human sides of War Office administration. He devoted a great deal of time and attention—just as, obviously, in his administration, he is devoting a great deal of thought—to improving the conditions and comforts of the troops. What is being done in the way of improving living conditions and what is to be done in future to provide the troops with opportunities for education, and so on, will go some distance to bring good out of evil. This war, which we all so greatly deplore, is at any rate having some beneficial effects, as is apparent to those of us who see the young men who, six or nine months ago, bore all the marks of living in conditions in which there was inadequate food, and unhealthy conditions, and who during the last six months have obviously improved greatly in physique and character.I should like also to express thanks to the Secretary of State for what he said about the searchlight and other anti-aircraft units in this country. As one who has seen the men who were engaged in searchlight work during the long and bitter winter, I am very glad that their patience and cheerfulness have been noted and have received words of appreciation from my right hon. Friend. I suppose that during the long hours of darkness, which in December began at a quarter past three in the afternoon, when the men were not allowed off their sites, they listened with more attention than they do in peace time to the speeches of prominent politicians. It has been noticed that although many other branches of the Army, and many other people engaged in the defence of the country, have been specially mentioned, the men engaged on searchlight work have generally been omitted. Previously, the only exception to that was when my right hon. Friend himself referred to them in his speech at Newcastle. I can tell him that his reference was noted and very much appreciated. My reason for intervening in the Debate this afternoon is to draw the Secretary of State's attention to the working of the scheme for combing out skilled men from the Army. It is universally admitted that to increase the industrial production of this country to a maximum is every bit as important as to have a large Army. I have had some opportunities of seeing cases where men are being retained in the Army who would, I am sure, be doing far more valuable work if they were returned to industry. Recently, I have made it my business to ascertain from the Ministry of Labour the exact principles upon which this comb-out is being conducted, and I venture to suggest to the Secretary of State that the comb-out is defective both in principle and in administration. The explanation of the comb-out which I have received is that under the War Time Schedule of Reserved Occupations a number of important industrial and other occupations are divided into three categories according the men in them are reserved at the ages of 18, 21 or 23. Now that the comb-out is being extended to the Air Defence of Great Britain, steps are being taken to ascertain which of the men were previously engaged in these occupations, and those of them who have reached the ages of reservation are being noted. Then one of two things may happen. If there is in the Army some Army trade exactly corresponding to the civilian occupations, those men will be transferred from the unit in which they are at the present time to the technical unit in which their special skill will find a use. If there is no such special occupation, they will then be allowed, if they so desire, to return to civilian life, and to go back into their own industry. When it is stated in those words, the scheme appears on the face of it to be perfectly reasonable, but as a matter of fact, it is so narrow and hedged in by so many restrictions that there are being retained in the Army at the present time a great many men who, I am sure, ought to be spared and who would be serving our war effort better if they were released. My first criticism of the scheme is the introduction of these age limits. If an industry like the manufacture of aircraft, for example, is of sufficient importance for it to be a reserved occupation, surely there ought to be no special age limit. Surely, there is one criterion and one criterion only. Will any particular man serve the country better in the Army or in his own industry? It does not follow necessarily that a young aircraftsman engaged in manufacture who is under the age of 21 can be more readily spared from those aircraft works than another aircraftsman who is four or five years older. In the case of the aircraft industry the age of reservation is 21. I should like to quote the example of a boy who is now aged 19 and who was working for Handley Page for 2½years before the war broke out. He was engaged on what must be, I think, a very highly skilled job; it was that of reading blue-prints which came from the drawing office of new designs and producing the aircraft accessories which were being made for experimental purposes. Because he is only 19 and the age of reservation is 21, he is being retained in the Army, where his skilled services are not being employed, and where he is actually employed as a clerk and sometimes as a motor driver. It might be supposed that when he reaches the age of 21 he will go back to the Handley Page works. In that case I would observe that he will then have spent two years losing such skill as he acquired in the 2½ years before the war before the aircraft industry gets his services again. However, I find that he will not go back into the aircraft industry—and here I come to my second criticism. It is that except for this particular comb-out, the operation of the Schedule of Reserved Occupations is not retrospective in its effect. This means that industry will have lost for the whole duration of the war those young and highly skilled men whose patriotism led them to join the Territorial Army shortly before the war broke out. My third criticism is that the comb-out leaves to the men the option of staying in the Army if they wish to do so. Surely the needs of industry, and especially of industries vital to our war effort, are such that option ought not to be left to the men. Just as it is not possible for men who are in reserved occupations to join the Army, surely those required back in industry ought not to be allowed to stay in it. The anomaly in the case of some units, at any rate, is even greater, because these men receive special trade rates of pay while they are in the Army on account of their skill in some particular occupation upon which in fact they are not engaged. I used to pay a lance-corporal 6s. a day because of the skill he had acquired when working for Scammells, who are now producing so many of the large vehicles for the transportation of our guns. The work he was doing was normally paid at the rate of 2s. 9d., but because he was a highly skilled workman from Scammells he was paid 6s. on account of valuable work he was not doing. The fourth criticism that I wish to make is that the comb-out does not apply to non-commissioned officers. Perhaps I may cite a concrete case which I know is an illustration of many. It is the case of a non-commissioned officer who had been engaged in the manufacture of Bren guns. Every effort has been made by the firm which employed him to secure his release, and they even wrote to the Under-Secretary of State.
Did they write to the Ministry of Supply?
I think they did. They wrote to about four or five different authorities and, I think, also to the Ministry of Supply. I have not the letters with me, but I will inform myself on that point if my right hon. Friend wishes me to do so. In any case I should have thought that the Under-Secretary of State would have referred them to the appropriate Ministry if they were writing to the wrong Department. It might be supposed that the reason the Army was retaining that man was because he was engaged in the repair of Bren guns. If that was so, I should admit quite frankly that there was a good case in favour of retaining him, but the unit with which he was serving is not armed with the Bren gun. Fifthly, I would point out that under the present procedure there is no opportunity, so far as I know, for a man who has some special skill but has not been actually engaged in some important industry, to leave the Army and go into an industry where he could apply his skill. Again I will quote an example which has come to my notice. It is the case of a young man who had been engaged as a skilled watch repairer. Three different firms of aircraft instrument manufacturers said they were acutely short of skilled labour and would be very glad to employ him, but because he does not come into a reserved occupation, as far as I can ascertain, there is no likelihood of the comb-out applying to him.My final criticism is not of the principles of the comb-out, but of the administrative machinery by which it is applied. There is no authoritative body to decide whether, after hearing evidence on both sides, a man is likely to be of more value in industry or in the Army. What happens is that the employer who desires to have a man's services back writes to the Ministry of Supply, or to whatever Government Department is chiefly concerned, and then there ensues a tug-of-war between the Service Departments concerned and the Supply Departments. The Department concerned with industrial production may be any one of four. It may be the Ministry of Supply in so far as the supplies are required for the Army; it may be the Air Ministry, which, as I understand it, arranges for its own supplies; it may be the Admiralty; or it may be the Board of Trade. With reference to the last Department, I would say that for the winning of the war it is no whit less important that our export trade shall be maintained and developed than that our armament industries shall be expanded. But, as things are, there is no single body or Government Department which can take a broad national view of the importance of increasing our industrial production. I assumed that it was the Ministry of Labour which was entrusted with the responsibility for organising the use of our man-power, but I find that in these matters the Ministry has no power to intervene. It is for that reason that I raise this matter on the Army Estimates, and I would beg my right hon. Friend to give sympathetic attention to it. I realise that what I am asking him to do is to take something more than a purely Departmental view. It is only natural and proper that the Army, where it has good men—and these skilled men do make extremely good soldiers—should be anxious to retain them if it is possible so to do. My right hon. Friend was previously President of the Board of Trade and is now a member of a War Cabinet, and therefore I think he will take a broad and not merely a Departmental view. I trust that he will give careful consideration to these criticisms which I have ventured to put before him, and that in future we may have a better co-ordinated and planned scheme to make the best use of our man-power.
To-day we can discuss a variety of subjects, but I intend to confine my remarks very largely to the question of dependants' allowances. I hold the view that if the nation commands the services of its people, it is our responsibility to ensure that the men's homes and their dependants shall be maintained in decency and comfort until they return. I believe that the majority of the Members of this House view with dismay the existing circumstances, and they recognise that the dependants' allowances are niggardly and totally inadequate to meet the needs. I speak as a practical housewife and as one who knows what it is to bring up a family on a working-class man's wage. I would say without fear of contradiction that it is an utter impossibility for the soldier's wife to keep her home going, to do her duty to her children, to safeguard their health, and to pay 20s. in the £. I say that you are placing an impossible burden on the shoulders of the wives of the men who are giving their services to the State. I feel it my duty to voice this opinion in the House this afternoon.I do not know what the experience of other Members of this House is, but for my part I am inundated with letters on this great human problem. I cannot go to my constituency without finding a queue of wives, mothers and men in the Service waiting to interview me on these aspects of Army life, and I am frequently stopped in the street by men who are home on leave. I have also received letters from men in the Forces about the plight of their homes and their children and of the utter impossibility of the women being able to keep their homes going on these inadequate allowances. We have to realise our responsibility and if we wish the men in the Forces to give of their best, we should see to it that their womenfolk and children are maintained in decency and in comfort while they are away. We should free the men from all worry of this kind. I notice in the new White Paper which has been placed at our disposal to-day, outlining some of the changes in the dependants' allowances, that they do not affect the rates and conditions of allowances for wives and children for whom family allowance is admissible. To-day a private in the Army allots 7s., and there is a family allowance of 17s. for a wife, making a total of 24s., with 5s. for the first child, 4s. for the second, 3s. for the third and subsequent children. I admit that, so far as the children's allowances are concerned, it is an improvement on what applied at the beginning of the war. Some of us urged for a flat rate per child irrespective of the number of family, but the Government in their wisdom did not see fit to grant that request. I would point out that the bulk of the 24s. available to the wife, if she happens to be living in a big town or city, is eaten up by rent, rates and incidental expenses for the home. There is very little left for food or clothing, and in hundreds of cases wives are compelled, no matter what their family responsibilities may be—whether they have young children or not—to try and find work outside their homes. In my constituency I have a large number of owner-occupiers—people who have been compelled to go into building societies in order to acquire a roof over their heads. There have been hundreds of letters sent to the building societies asking them to withhold the payment on the capital. I have had to ask them to allow any repayment to stand over until such time as the soldier can apply to the War Services Grants Advisory Committee for a supplementation of the family allowance. The majority of the building societies have been quite decent about it. Of course they have asked that, as soon as any decision was made by the committee, they should be informed by the soldier's wife, and they were perfectly willing to allow that only interest charges should be payable whilst the man was with the Forces, but I think the experience of the building societies would be that in thousands of cases they had no payment whatever for at least the first four or five months of the war. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman why the extra allowance of 3s. 6d. per week is made to soldiers' wives who happen to live in London? I do not begrudge anyone's extra allowance, but London has not got a monopoly of high rents. There are many important cities and towns, to say nothing of the outer belt of London, where rates are as high as in London; indeed, in some parts of my constituency there are people paying higher rents for a certain type of house. I have here a large number of letters from women in my constituency asking why they cannot have this extra allowance and pointing out that their rents are as high as if they were living in London, I am very sorry that this allowance is confined to London, and I hope great pressure will be brought to bear on the right hon. Gentleman to extend it to other parts of the country. I have been asked by the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association to raise a point about the solider's wife who happens to have one child. They feel that in these cases special grants ought to be made. I myself believe in a flat rate for each child, but these organisations have asked me to put the point forward, and I do so accordingly. I have been interested in the position of the widowed mother. Very frequently the son who is in the Army has been the mainstay of the home, and these women have had a raw deal from the authority. I had a letter from a woman who told me of her difficulties. Her eldest son had joined up several months ago. He had allotted her 7s. a week and had also made an application that she should be treated as a dependant. They stopped the allotment from the allowance each week. She only received it for two weeks, and she heard nothing at all about her special application for a dependant's allowance, though she had written over and over again to the paymaster of the regiment and to the commanding officer. The son, who was a good son and had helped in every possible way to maintain the home, was very distressed at these revelations. If this was an isolated case, one might put it down to an oversight or to pressure of work.
When such a grave case came to the hon. Lady's notice, why did she not take the obvious step of sending it to me to enable me to investigate it?
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has made that observation.
Has she not done it before?
The Department gets a great many cases from me, because directly I have any complaint by a constituent or a friend I send it to the Financial Secretary. I am giving particulars of this case, and I ask for an inquiry. There have been a great many of these cases. I feel very sorry for a widowed woman whose eldest son has been taken away and who is left in a position like this. I hope that greater consideration will be given to women in that category.I should now like to say something about a very difficult problem. I have not spoken on it before, because I thought a great deal too much publicity was given to it. I refer to the problem of what has been termed the unmarried wife. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is happy about the official designation. I attended a women's meeting some time ago at which there were representatives from religious societies, and they were most indignant that any term should be applied which seemed to lower the status of marriage. I invited women who made the objection to try to help them to get a correct designation. I know the difficulties of the Department in trying to get that. Among the designations brought forward was the term "cohabitee." I said that did not sound very nice. After a great many other suggestions I said, "Let us be dignified about it," and I put forward, in my humble way, the suggestion of "lady consort," but that was thought much too dignified. I am not going to criticise the right hon. Gentleman for accepting the highest ecclesiastical dignitary's designation. As one who has done a great deal of social work in the old days, when we had boards of guardians, I know a great deal about this problem and its repercussions. I was very indignant at the action of certain commanding officers in setting aside court orders. A lady whom I know had an order for 14s. a week for herself and her child. She wrote to the commanding officer about it, and he set aside the court order and wrote back and told her she would get 2s. 11d. a week paid monthly. That meant that she would receive for one month less than the amount of the court order for one week. Cases like that arouse indignation, and it is certainly very difficult for the legal wife and her legitimate child. The new White Paper says:
I want to know what exactly that means, because we realise that there are large numbers of wives whose husbands have left them but who have been unable for financial or other reasons to obtain a court order. I want to know what the position of the legal wife in a case of that kind is to be. I know that there are other procedures which can be carried out, but I should like an explanation of that part of the White Paper. Certainly we ought to see to it, whilst we desire to deal with the problem from a human angle—and we admit that it is difficult—that we safeguard the interests of the legal wives and legitimate children. The question has been raised about delays in the payment of allowances. I am informed by a member of a county council that they have had a great many cases to deal with. First of all, if a woman cannot get her allowance through she is told to go to the U.A.B. When she gets her family allowance through she is expected, of course, to see the U A.B. officer with a view to repayment of all or some of the money. If she is unable to pay her way, she makes an application to the War Grants Advisory Committee, and I understand that she has been in many cases advised to go to the public assistance committee. To my mind the whole thing makes it very difficult for the soldier's wife. She has debt accumulations, and she has the worry of trying to get enough to enable her to live, and all this could be obviated if the Government would face up to the problem and accept the suggestion of my hon. Friend on the Front Bench and grant a proper allowance in respect of each Service man's wife on the same lines as is done for the Canadian soldier. I have been informed that the wife of a Canadian soldier gets £1 18s, 10½d. per week and 13s. 4d. for each child. If we could have a flat rate for women and children, we should obviate all the unnecessary delay and humbug in their being sent from one committee to another. We should certainly obviate the necessity for the means test procedure, which the majority of women resent. This is a great human problem, and I feel that we ought to do justice to the gallant men who are giving their services to the nation. I repeat that we have no reason to be proud of our treatment of the wives and dependants and of the parents of the men in the Services. The Government flatly refuse to face all the implications of the inadequate allowances that are given, and I hope and trust that public opinion will be roused to the fact that it is their job and responsibility to give fair play and just treatment to the men who are doing their bit in the defence of the nation."Where there is no court order but the Army Council are satisfied that the wife has been deserted or left destitute without cause, stoppages from the soldier's pay can be ordered for her support up to the full amount permissible under the Army Act."
As one who has been associated in one form and another with the Army and the Auxiliary Forces for such a long period of years that I hardly like to recall them, I have no complaint to make when I hear the great stream of desire which goes forth that the conditions of the fighting men and their wives and dependants should be on an adequate scale. I have attended every Army Debate in the House for 30 years. In most of those years I have heard hardly a single word in support of those of us who pressed for better conditions for the British Army. The terrible conditions after the South African War were never hardly considered, and hon. Members, if they so choose, can remind themselves of those conditions by consulting any South African veteran. I need hardly say that I do not in any way complain of the great desire that has shown itself in recent years in order to see that that kind of thing will never occur again. I am glad to pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for the concessions which he has recently made, but nothing, I imagine, could ever be adequate enough in war time to give satisfaction to all of us.Our burden is colossal, but those of us who fought in the last war can at least say that our womenfolk are being treated immeasurably better in this war than during that. We are all more and more becoming impressed with the colossal scale of expenditure in this country, and I cannot help wondering whether the phrase, "niggardly and totally inadequate" which was used to describe the allowance in the case quoted of the wife and four children, was justified when, in fact, at the lowest it represents £106 per annum, without any allowance that might be given by the committee which decides on hard cases. When we compare that with the conditions in France, where the soldiers are getting 1d. a day simply because the country cannot afford more, and their wives and children cannot have anything like this amount, I would beg hon. Members not to exaggerate the situation or to convey to those who are defending our lives the notion that their families are being forgotten.
Could the hon. and gallant Gentleman keep a wife and four children on £106 a year?
I do not want to go into personal matters. I only ask whether anybody could have dreamt during the last war that £106 would go into a home when the man was being kept, clothed and housed? Having said that, let me say that I rejoice at the concessions that have been made and that I am certain that if the burden becomes intolerable, Parliament in its wisdom will reconsider some of the cases that have been referred to.With regard to the general welfare of the men, I have made it my duty, almost every week-end, without any official position, to drop in and say a word wherever I could find troops billeted. I think it will comfort Members to know that my experience has been that the conditions really are admirable compared with the conditions that my men and officers had to suffer in the first three months of the last war, when we were dossed down in billets without any kind of warmth and my officers were sleeping on stable floors. We thank God that we have been able to make such provision as we have at the present time. In spite of all the stories which come forward—I do not know with what object—to try and distress the mothers, wives and sisters of soldiers, we must admit that in 99 cases out of 100—and I am sure the hundredth will be put right by my right hon. Friend—the conditions of British soldiers are such—and the Canadians in the country tell me the same—as will compare favourably with the conditions of soldiers in any other war. We have had many discussions on Army affairs, but if we go home and read our OFFICIAL REPORT, we will be surprised to find that, whereas we are concerned, and rightly so, with the comfort of the troops and their dependants, hardly a single word has been uttered as to how we can prosecute the war, and get on with the job of defeating our enemy, so that our fighting men may return to their former avocations. The question has been raised repeatedly, and not unnaturally—it was raised for a moment or two in the Debate the other day—of commissions in the Army. Ever since we decided to have the Military Service Act it has been obvious that as the days go by practically every commission will have to come from the ranks. That principle has been accepted. Unless we can have a small flow of youths who are ready, as I would like to see them, make the Service their profession from 17 years of age, all commissions will henceforth have to come through the ranks. There is little doubt about that. An hon. Member mentioned the other day the case of two non-commissioned officers who to his knowledge were fine officers and he thought they ought to have commissions. I only want to utter this caveat. I beg that in any pressure we may try to bring to bear on the War Office in future we shall never allow the old school tie, or the fact that a man is a non-commissioned officer, or the fact that he happens to come from the working-classes to be of any influence. One thing and one thing only matters in war, and that is life and the preservation of the men so that they can successfully carry out their duties. In order to get that, we must aim at one quality only, and that is leadership. Who can tell, other than the man who is responsible for the fighting efficiency of his unit, whether a soldier ought to have a commission? The commanding officer, if he is worth his salt, knows every man in his battalion. He sees them every day, and he can pick out almost in a week the man who has the qualities of the soldier and who is likely to prove a leader. The company commander must know to a greater extent, and the platoon commander, or the platoon sergeant-major as he is now, must know better than anyone outside which of the men ought to be promoted. The people who know, perhaps even better than the officers, whether a man has qualities of leadership are the men who are serving with him. When a man is called out on the square, when he is controlling a section in training, the men will know at once whether he is a leader. Now that we have to recognise the general principle that all promotions must come from the ranks, I hope that we may not receive so many letters from the general public saying, "Our Tom has not got a commission," or, "My boy was a scholar at Balliol; why hasn't he got a commission?" The answer is because he has not yet proved among his fellows that he is fit to lead. If there is any variation of that one test, we shall see the kind of tragedies that we saw in the last war, when in the later days young officers, with the best will and great gallantry, were hurriedly sent out to us. Many of them proved themselves utterly incapable in the vital moment under hell's fire to be able to lead their men, to force them to take cover and to see that their conduct under fire was guarded and careful. That is not the only thing that matters. The British officer in the past—and anyone who served in any capacity will agree—has always had the tradition of being a kind of father to his men. Otherwise he was an unsuccessful officer. I can speak from a wider angle than some, because I happened to be in all the different branches of the Service in the last war. I went out as a Territorial officer. I was then for a long time in a brigade of the Regular Army, and later I had the honour to command troops of the new Army. Nothing ever impressed me in my life more than when I saw the Guards Brigade coming out of the first battle of Ypres, when the men were almost skeletons after all they had gone through, and all the officers, although they might be ready to drop with fatigue, made it their first business to see that the men were fed and that their quarters were comfortable. It is that spirit which will count so much in successful leadership in the Army. I regard it as one of the essentials for success. I would add this word to the Minister, that his predecessor made a mistake, I think, in imagining that when the second battalions of the Territorial Army are built up they can be officered out of the existing quotas of officers serving in the Territorial Army. I think it would have been wiser had he brought in, for every battalion, four or five older officers who had been in the last war, who had proved themselves leaders in action, and had made them captains and majors and perhaps even commanding officers of the new-found units. I am sure that would have given a better start to the units from the point of view of tradition. There would have been officers accustomed to look after the men. Although I am a product of the Territorial Army myself I feel we are rather too much inclined to avoid offending Territorial feelings by bringing in outsiders at the start. We need only keep them for six months, and then they could go on to some new unit. If the right hon. Gentleman has it in mind, as some think will be necessary, to build up new divisions, I hope a little more care will be taken to see that there is seniority, wisdom and experience in the original officers for the new units. I regard that as essential. Some people seem to think that this is to be a war of fixed positions. If it remains static the Germans will, in my opinion, suffer even more from boredom than we do, because the Germans have been taught that the German Army is the German nation, that their soldiers are super-men, that, whatever the impediments, they can break through and conquer their enemies. Therefore, I am not one of those who believe that the Germans can afford to sit tight, and if that be true they will endeavour to seek a war of movement, to bring about fluid warfare somewhere by getting round or through one of our flanks. They will look for the weakest point in the circle. That being the case it impels us to exhort our military chiefs to see that the British Army is trained from the start to meet all the conditions of open warfare which they are likely to encounter. There may be danger, should there be any pressure to get men trained, if we do not look all round the picture. In the retreat from the Somme in 1918 there were, to my certain knowledge, five divisions, no single unit of which had ever had practice in fighting a rear-guard action. That speaks much, perhaps, for the offensive ideals of the British Army of those days, but the truth was that their training had been forced. Had they received training in fighting a rear-guard action, gallantly though they fought against immense odds in that retreat, the advance of the Germans might have been a great deal slower. Therefore, I express the hope to the present Secretary of State for War, as I did to his predecessor, that he should not act on the assumption that this must be a static war, a war of men sitting in the trenches, in which, we have been told, the British soldier would carry out his traditional role of digging in. That is not his traditional role. His traditional role is to defeat the enemy in a war of movement. Anybody who studies the history of the final break-up of our enemies in the last war will realise—and this implies no lack of compliment to the French, who had borne such an immense share of the great burden—that it was in fact the British Armies under Haig who broke the Hindenburg Line, it was the corps under Lord Cavan which broke the Austrian Lines, it was the corps under Allenby in Palestine and under Marshall in Mesopotamia which broke the two Turkish fronts, and it was Milne's Army at Salonika which broke the Bulgar line. Those are facts which the British people remember, and when we are told of the invincibility of the German army let us remember what our British troops have done before. It has been my privilege to visit various commands, and I can only say that I have seen a wonderful spirit in all ranks. I believe that we have now the finest material we have ever had, and I believe that if there is no favouritism and if we keep politics completely out of the Army, we shall have a British Army which will achieve the same fame and glory as before when we have finally to smash those fiends on the Continent of Europe.
There are two points which the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) made to which I should like to refer. In the first place, I did not like his suggestion that we on this side are too much interested at the moment in dependants' allowances and not sufficiently interested in winning the war.
I did not mean to suggest that.
I think that was the suggestion behind the statement. I am pleased to know that the hon. and gallant Member did not mean it.
We ought to think of the war as well.
I think the hon. and gallant Member will agree with me that we on this side are just as eager that this war should be won as is any other Member of the House, and though we may approach different questions in a different way I do not think any Member ought to suggest that he is more in earnest about winning the war than we are.
The other point he dealt with was the amount of time spent in training the soldier. I want to ask the Secretary of State what time is allowed for that. A month last Saturday 250,000 men were registered and last Saturday another 300,000. Of the 250,000 registered a month last Saturday many have not yet been called up. Is he not in danger of delaying the calling up too long and not allowing sufficient time for the men to be adequately trained? He may tell us that there is an ample supply of men in France, that all the accommodation available is being used for training and that men cannot be called up any quicker, but I do not want the time to come, which may come, when men will have to be rushed untrained into the fighting. I hope the Secretary of State will see to it that all the men are sufficiently trained in case they are needed.I also want to refer, though in the reverse sense to which the hon. Member for the High Peak Division (Mr. Molson) dealt with it, to another question. A good number of men have been called up from among that section of miners who are essential to the industry. The Minister knows me sufficiently well to know that I do not suggest any preferential treatment for the miner, but I feel that there ought to be consultation with the Mines Department to see whether the time has not come when certain sections of miners should be exempt from calling up—in the interest of winning the war and for no other purpose. I do not want to keep miners in comparatively safe positions at home—they never are, either in peace or war—but in the national interest there should be an examination of the mining industry with a view to a certain restriction being placed upon young boys being taken away for service, because they are vital to the industry. If the Government want an extra output of 40,000,000 tons of coal the miners will devote themselves to securing it, but it is going to be impossible if this section of the miners is constantly depleted without regard to output. Let me now compliment the Minister on the very lucid and comprehensive statement which he made on Tuesday. When he became Secretary of State for War I heard many people casting doubt upon his competence to fill the position as adequately as his predecessor. I say frankly that I did not share those doubts. I have known him now for many years, I have watched him for 11 years, I have seen him on the back benches and in many positions on the Front Bench, and I knew that he had the capacity; and was more than ever convinced of it on Tuesday. No one could have given the comprehensive and lucid survey of the Army which he gave us on Tuesday in so short a time who had not devoted himself very thoroughly to his job, and I pay a very sincere compliment to him upon the way in which he discharged that onerous task. I wish to refer briefly to the question of allowances. It is uppermost in our minds and, after all, it is vital. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth told us quite candidly that anxiety in the mind of the soldier would militate against his efficiency, and it is from that point of view alone that I approach the question and from no other aspect whatever. I am anxious that our fighting men, the men who are giving all for us, should have no anxiety about their dependants. That is my sole consideration. I wish to thank the Minister for the substantial concession he has made, which will do much to remove the anxieties of men in the Fighting Forces. There are one or two points, however, which I wish to put to him about allowances. He made an announcement of a 20 per cent. reduction in the calculation of the earnings of every member of the household. Is he satisfied that that concession will do all that he wants to do? I know of a number of cases which will come in under the new scale. A case was brought to my notice this morning in which a claim had previously been turned down and I was delighted when I examined it to find that it will now be admitted. The father is earning £2 5s. a week, a son (now in the Army) earning £3 a week and a daughter earning £1, and there is the mother and a child. At present, owing to their earnings, they are not in a position to make a claim, but on making calculations under the new system I find that they will be within the scheme, and I was very pleased indeed. I should like to know whether there is any intention of reviewing cases from time to time. The position is that a statement is taken from the soldier on enlistment and a decision is made. The Minister knows the mining industry fairly well, and will realise that a soldier's father may meet with an accident some weeks later and his earnings may be very substantially reduced. Is it the intention, when there are fluctuations in earnings, that further consideration shall be given to the case? I am afraid cases will be reviewed where things are the other way round. Supposing that at the time of his father's enlistment a boy is 13½ and at school and some time afterwards he goes to work and earns 12s. to 15s. a week. I am sure that the additional money coming into the home would be taken into account. This question of reviewing the income is vital, because circumstances fluctuate rapidly in the industrial areas, and I wish the Minister to have regard to the fact that though the first decision in a case may be just and generous such variations may occur in the family's position as to call for further consideration. In his winding-up speech on Tuesday, the Minister dealt with a number of matters. I wish to bring forward the position of students. I have in mind a case in which the Minister of Labour kindly granted a student a postponement of the date on which he should join up in order to allow him an opportunity to take his degree at Leeds University. He expects to get his degree round about June or July and then he will join up immediately. The Minister was kind enough to say that regard would be had to earning capacity in such cases. How will such a young man be dealt with? He will leave the University with the intention of becoming a teacher. Is the Minister going to take it for granted that he would then get a teacher's salary in the ordinary way? What has the Minister in mind? The same point arises in connection with an unemployed person. In the mining areas there were many unemployed men who at the time of their enlistment were bringing into the home only unemployment benefit. Is that all that will be ascribed to him, or will he be ascribed at the grade of work at which he was employed in the mine? I feel sure that the Minister will see to it that the miner gets according to whatever his grade may be—to certain grades certain things. What I wish him to keep in mind is this: Do not treat the man, because he is unemployed, as earning only 17s. This is his sole contribution to the family income, but he is entitled to be considered in a different category. Otherwise you will find that man has been unfairly penalised—
Message to attend the Lords Commissioners.
The House went; and, having returned—
Mr. SPEAKER reported the Royal Assent to:
Question again proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
I was just drawing attention to a matter relating to the unemployed man, who is unemployed immediately he is called up. I think I have made the point clear to the Minister that the man should be assessed at the wages he would have had had he been in work and which he might have got on any day immediately he was called up. That was the only point that I was making in this connection. I was interested in the point made by the Financial Secretary to the War Office the other night, concerning the number of men who had not made any allotment to their parents. The Minister was quite entitled to interrupt the hon. Member for Chester- le-Street (Mr. Lawson). I had noticed the point myself. The statement made clear that, out of the total claims for allowances, 50,000 claims had been refused because the soldiers in question expressed themselves unwilling to make any allotment to their dependants.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office cannot be here tonight. Unfortunately, he is ill. He spoke under very great strain the other night. I think that for this reason he was not accurately reported both in the Press and in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I should like to make clear his statement. It was that, out of the claims which had been rejected for dependants' allowances, in 50,000 cases, that is, in something like 70 per cent., the claimants said that if allowances were not being given they did not wish to proceed with their allotments to their families.
They were in the position that, having ascertained that no allowance was being made to their families, they decided to make no allotment?
That makes the position very much clearer. I want to impress upon the Minister that families whose sons and husbands are called up will have to make tremendous sacrifices and will carry a greater share of burden than other families. It is difficult to even out the burden of the war upon family life. In the case of men who are exempted from enlistment and who stay at home, earning decent wages, the families are much better off. I have heard of some, but only a very few, mothers who say they prefer having their sons at home even without wages, rather than that their sons should join up. There are very few indeed of such cases, and I am exceedingly pleased that that is so; but sometimes one wonders whether the mothers who have the good fortune to keep their sons at home ought not to be reminded that there are other mothers who are sacrificing their sons and sacrificing, in addition, their standard of life. As I say, it is difficult to even out the burden of the war on family life and upon the individual citizen, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will keep in mind the need for doing something in that direction.I should like to refer to, and to support if I may, a point which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street in regard to what they called the decentralising of investigations into means. I would prefer to call it the localisation of investigation. There is danger in being too centralised. There are many advantages of centralisation, but there are many disadvantages, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to be good enough to look into the question whether local investigating committees could help him to decide fairly what ought to be done. He might find something to assist him in the idea of local committees. I do not put it forward as a new notion. It is an old notion and dates from the last war. I was reading a report of the proceedings in the House of Lords during the last war, and I came across an example of rather unusual political history. The father of the present Secretary of State for War was Secretary of State for War in the last war. That is very unusual, and I do not know of any other such instances. I have heard of the younger Pitt and the elder Pitt, but I think the Derbys will now come into their own. In the Great War, 1914–18, the father of the present right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for War. I looked up the report of the proceedings in the House of Lords to see whether I could find any reference to financial needs in the last war, and I came across one. On 18th May, 1916, speaking in the House of Lords, the father of the present Secretary of State for War made this statement:
Knowing the right hon. Gentleman as a dutiful son, I ask him to pay attention to what his father said. I know that he may tell me that that was said in May, when his father was not Secretary of State for War. It is true that it was not until December of the same year that his father came to be Secretary of State for War. However, I shall be surprised to hear him say that what his father said in May was retracted in December. Some people may do that, but Lancashire men do not. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into this question. He may get some assistance from local investigation. I hope he will give consideration to the advisability of getting local investigation by men who know the families in the areas, because I think then he would get some assistance. My last point is a general one. The one concern of this House must be the winning of this war. I am satisfied from the speech that we heard from the right hon. Gentleman on Tuesday that that is his sole concern, and I believe he has tried to make every provision that he can be expected to make to win this war, but I would ask him to pay regard to the vital importance of adequate training. There may be difficulties now. The stalemate on the Western front creates a problem. It is said in some parts of the country that some men are going to France partially trained. I see no objection to that so long as we can be satisfied that their training is being completed in France. In fact, I think it is a good thing. We want more powerful physiques as well as determined minds and strong hearts. I want to see every man called to the Colours receive adequate training so that he can discharge his duty and so that the victory which we know will come will come earlier."I hope that the Government will see some way of bringing into closer touch the tribunals that deal with the men's ordinary appeals and these bodies which deal with their financial appeals, because I am perfectly certain that the financial bodies will get an enormous amount of help from the ordinary tribunals. The ordinary tribunals, being composed of inhabitants of the place, and knowing probably the men intimately, would be able to give information with regard to the cost of living and the effect that service would have on the men which could not be obtained in any other way."
In addressing a few remarks to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, I want to start by raising a point on which I have been in communication with him, concerning the condition of health of some of the men in the newly-raised regiments. Living as I do with a good many thousand men quite close to me and with very many more thousands in my own constituency, naturally I receive a good many letters from parents of soldiers. The point I have in mind is that some men, with the best spirit and will in the world, having passed through a medical examination, find themselves incapable of supporting the strain of military training; I refer particularly to the physical strain, in regard to wearing respirators and so on. I believe that if commanding officers of units would make careful investigations and if that type of individual was weeded out, the Army would be more efficient. There is a very small number of them, but the cases are genuine enough, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to bear that point in mind.I have been particularly interested, and no doubt other hon. Members have too, in the report of the conference called by the Ministry of Pensions, and over which Lord Horder presided, in regard to keeping a watch over young soldiers after they have joined up and while they are undergoing training. Although I fully realise that the medical boards are no direct concern of the Secretary of State, it is a fact that the report to which I refer particularly requested that during the period of training men should be carefully watched and that those who show any indication of nervousness or mental instability should be reported upon and weeded out, because they can only be a danger to themselves and to the other people with whom they are serving. I feel sure that a certain number of individuals are slipping past the medical boards, and therefore the watch and the reports are very necessary. As I say, men of that type are a danger to themselves and to those with whom they serve. There was a great general of whom it was said that
That may be true; he was a very brave general. At the same time there are certain types of individuals to whom terror is natural and whose mental state is such that they cannot help themselves. They are only a serious danger, and therefore the Army will be better off by not having men of that type in it. With regard to conscientious objectors, that is only a small matter, and the Army is getting a small number of those who have not received total exemption. They do not come into the picture at all, because they will not be in any fighting unit. Another point which makes, and has made for some time, a strong appeal to me concerns the Press and the Army. One sees headlines such as "Soldiers in trouble," "Soldiers accused of housebreaking," "Soldiers take away a car," and similar headlines. I contend that there can be nothing worse for the morale of the Army than that that sort of headlines should be permitted. The proper reference should be, not that the soldiers were in trouble, but that citizens were disgracing military uniform. I noticed the other day a case of two young soldiers in uniform who were accused of something for which they were heavily punished. They had been civilians for 20 years and soldiers for about 20 minutes, and to say that the soldier is responsible for the offence is intolerable. Perhaps the average citizen's dislike or suspicion of the Army goes back nearly 300 years, when a dictator in this country found it necessary, or thought it was necessary, to burst into this House of Commons, to remove the Speaker from his Chair, and to arrest a good many of the Members."he stopped the fliers and by his rare example made the coward turn terror into sport."
Why drag that up?
I trust it is not likely to happen in our time. I have so great an admiration and so profound a respect for the British Army that I ask the Minister whether, in some way or another, through records kept at the War Office, he cannot try to check that tendency which springs to the eyes of every hon. Member in this House. I ask him to keep an eye upon the Press and do everything he can to keep the Army what it is, a brilliant and highly respected profession.I want to say how much I agree with the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) in what he said regarding his support of the Government. He rightly said that hon. Members on his side of the House are as loyal and helpful as we are towards the Army and its prospects in winning the war. It is perfectly true. One had only to listen to the final speech of the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench who wound up the pension Debate to realise that the same feelings exist on the Front Opposition Bench as on the back benches on the opposite side. I want to pay my tribute to this great military service which is doing so well and which, despite all the difficulties that surround it, is so astonishingly resilient. I pay my tribute not only to the professional but also to the amateur soldier. We have arrived at a standard of unanimity in this House which is astonishing and is something on which the country may congratulate itself. None the less, it is a fact that for many years past, certainly ever since I have been in the House of Commons, the Army as such has been subjected to scorn and obloquy, and it has been starved of men and of materials. The right hon. Gentleman who speaks from the Front Bench has had a very difficult task in order to build it up. Under the stress of idealism we have allowed ourselves in this country to imagine that an Army would never be wanted. Excepting for the brilliant nucleus which has always been part of the British Army, the Army has been recruited for many years from down-and-outs and from a totally inadequate supply of candidates for commissions. What I am saying is a fact. For years the War Office has had the greatest difficulty in getting sufficient candidates to present themselves to fill vacancies. When people sometimes complain to me about the shortcomings of the Army, of the delays of some of the hardships, and the complaints of the conditions under which the men live, I always reply in this strain: What would be said of any profession such as the Church, the law, medicine, architecture, or accountancy if suddenly by the law of this land they were told that they had to multiply themselves by anything up to 10 with the aid of the Government, and if after six months you went to the leaders of those professions and said, "Is everyone who has joined up in your profession all that you could wish him to be, does he know all about his job, does he never make a mistake?" One knows what would be said. In the Army a large number of people have arrived, and the difficulties of training and providing the necessary material are almost insurmountable. I believe the British Army has risen above all its handicaps. I do, most earnestly, express the view that we should look to the future, and see that, among the difficulties and dangers that now beset us, we lay the most perfect foundations for an even finer Army than that which has built up this country in the past.
I want to support the very strong case which has been made for dependants' allowances which are even better than those now promised by the Minister. There have been many individual cases cited. I should like to take as a text for my own remarks a letter that I have just received from the widow of a man who died because of his service in the last war. At the age of 61, she is earning £1 a week charing, and in addition, as a widow, she gets a pension of 31s. a week. The Army has taken her only son, and she has been refused any allowance in respect of him. This is the language in which she writes:
That is the language of Hoxton. It is very plain, pointed language; but I am sure it only reflects the great mass of feeling all over the country. In all sorts of homes, there is this strong sense of grievance at the fact that boys have been taken away and that nothing has been given in respect of them. The women of our country have been magnificent in this war. They look upon the fact that their sons, whom they have brought up and nurtured, have to face the hardships and perils of war, mutilation, and possibly death itself, as something which is inevitable, from which there is no honourable escape; but they do not look upon the refusal of allowances in the same light. They do not regard this refusal as being necessary. They are quite right. The country could make a satisfactory allowance in respect of every one of these boys. I do not say there is money for everything; but if there is money at all, this sort of claim should come first. I am thinking of this from the point of view of the discontent which is arising. It is natural to think that, when the war is on and the country wants soldiers, the tendency is for the Government to treat these soldiers and their dependants fairly. If these mothers and wives and fathers see that while the war is actually on, they are treated with niggardliness and injustice, are they not going to feel that when the war is over, and there is not the same necessity for their boys, they will get treatment which is far less than just? I want to emphasise the special responsibility of the Minister in this matter. I do not think that we are fight- ing him. I believe that his heart is in the right place, and that he has a clear sense of justice. If it rested with him, I think our battle would be won. But we are fighting, not the Minister of War but the Treasury. It will be a very unhappy thing for this country if, through the Treasury's niggardliness and narrowness of vision, there should arise a great volume of discontent among the women of the country. I speak on this with a certain amount of knowledge. It was my lot in 1924 to be Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Pensions. That was not long after the last war, and a tremendous number of cases of hardship and injustice were coming before the Minister. In many of those cases the responsibility of the country was quite clear, even to the officials of the Ministry of Pensions, but there was such fear of the Treasury that they were not prepared to put proposals before the Treasury and fight to get the injustices remedied. That is where the responsibility of the Minister of War comes in. When he goes to the Treasury about these undoubted grievances, he goes as the defender and champion of the fighting men and their dependants, and it is up to him to make the most determined fight against the attitude of the Treasury officials. I should not like to go so far as to say that he ought to be bloody, bold, and resolute: I hope it does not go quite so far as that; but I am certain that if the Minister is to get anything like justice for the soldiers' dependants he has to be, in his contacts with the Treasury officials, very bold and very resolute. If he is, even to the point of incurring displeasure inside the Cabinet, he can be quite certain that he will have the backing of the vast majority of the people. I am as anxious as anybody in this House to see the home front kept strong and united, in order that we may win this war for our liberties and the democratic institutions for which we have had to fight so hard. But I can see that in the discontent which is growing up over these allowances, there is a very serious threat to the unity and firmness of that home front. The Minister, as representing the Government, would do well, from the point of view of enlightened self-interest, apart from considerations of justice, to take a firm stand with the Treasury, and to see that the case for concessions, which has been made out on this side in overwhelming fashion, is conceded."He was all I had, and I think it a great shame for him to be taken away from me after the struggle I have had to bring him up. It is, in my opinion, a crying shame that this Government should take away our boys from us, and not give a damn what becomes of us and whether we are able to maintain our homes for them to come back to without having to scrape and sacrifice what little we have."
I want to raise the question, which has been referred to here before, of men on service being allowed to go back to agriculture. The Prime Minister promised the agricultural industry that sufficient labour would be available. Surely the best way to achieve that is to let the men go back now, and not to be so niggardly in the investigation of the claims. I get repeated complaints from farmers that they are unable to get men recalled, not only from the Army but also from the Navy. It seems harder to get a man back from service if he is a mechanic than if he is a plain agricultural labourer, but agriculture nowadays wants mechanics quite as much as it wants agricultural labourers. I will finish with that subject by saying, let the men come back now, and there will not be the necessity that otherwise would arise for calling up inexperienced labourers later on. I want to point out also that when lads are called up for the Forces extraordinarily little knowledge is obtained about their educational capacities. The result has been that lads who cannot read and write have been posted to units. That seems to be quite unnecessary, and a waste of time
Could the hon. and gallant Member tell us where these lads come from?
From all over the country, but mainly from Scotland. I should like to know why there is no means of finding out whether a man can read or write before he is posted. The third point with which I wish to deal is one which was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). It deals with the question of promotion to non-commissioned and commissioned ranks. I have discovered, not from my own experience but from that of others serving as Regular officers, that there is a reluctance on the part of some officers to promote men serving under them because these men are too useful where they are. That is the wrong spirit. Anyone who adopts such a policy is doing harm, not only to the Service but to his own unit. Nothing is so good for a unit as to see promotion being given. If men see a good man being promoted, they feel that there is a chance for themselves; and no matter how good a man is, if he is promoted, there is probably an equally good man available to take his place. That is true of the Services as of everything else. I hope that the War Office will keep that fact in mind.
I would like to say how much I share with Members who have spoken, both this afternoon and on the previous occasion earlier in the week, the satisfaction felt at certain portions of the speech of the Secretary of State for War. Although to many of us the allowances which he has announced are not all that they might be—and many of us would press for changes upward—there was much in what he said and in the review which he gave us, which, I am positive, found support in all quarters of the House. I would have liked him to have said more about what he intends to do with regard to education for the Army. Those of us who are old enough to have served in the last war will vividly remember the very long periods of boredom which we suffered, and although usually life was far more active than probably it is in the Maginot Line to-day, we felt periods of boredom which we would have liked to have had mitigated by some collective action by the War Office or by some body working through the War Office. I hope that in anything that the Secretary of State does he will try and get away from the organisation which was built up following the end of the last war. We have to remember that that was 20 years ago, and that an entirely new generation has grown up which looks at life through different eyes and from a different angle. I was very pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he was not going to build up the machinery first, but was going to get going the actual education and lectures to the men in the Forces and let the organisation follow. I take it from that, and I hope I am right, that he means to build up something by the aid of new men with a new spirit and outlook.With regard to the observations which have been made to the 50,000 who withdrew their allotment, I think that one reason why they did not proceed with the allotment to their dependants was the simple fact that they could do with the money themselves. I do not know whether it is possible for the Secretary of State, after consultation with the other two Services, to make some changes in the basic amount which the ordinary soldier, sailor or airman has to allot to a dependant or to his wife. The sum of 7s. does not seem to be much, but it is half of the 14s. the man receives. Everybody knows that he does not get the full 5s. There are stoppages of various amounts which bring it down—usually to about 5s. It does not need very much imagination to realise that 5s. does not go very far. Thousands of them have to make 5s. do for the whole of the week, but the youngster in his early twenties, who is now living a very active out-of-door life, finds himself exceedingly hungry at night. In many units the last meal is at six o'clock, and sometimes it is as early as 4·30, and the soldier has then to go until 6·30 the next morning before he gets another meal. It is unfair to expect a young fellow, who perhaps is still growing, and who is living this open-air life for the first time, to go all that time without wanting to spend some money on food.
Perhaps the hon. Member is not aware that it is the common practice for soldiers to have supper between seven, and 8·30.
I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for correcting me, but I have been told that what I have said is correct. I gather from friends to whom I have spoken that, generally speaking, it can be said—and I have letters to show this—that a very large proportion of the men under Army training at the moment, at any rate, have to go from early evening until early the next morning without anything in between, except what they buy in the canteen. In addition, the cinema is an amusement which we should expect them to have. Means should be provided, if possible, for the soldier to go occasionally to the cinema. Young men almost universally smoke—and some of them—and in saying this I notice that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) is not here to object—even drink, and as a result 5s. does not go very far. I would ask the Secretary of State whether it is not possible, in consultation with the Secretary of State for Air and the First Lord of the Admiralty, to see whether something cannot be done to leave a larger balance of the 14s. in the hands of the men than is at present the case.There is a further point. Could not the Secretary of State circularise the paymasters? I do not know the experience of other hon. Members, but I have received a fair number of letters from dependants telling me that they have written not once or twice, but many times to the paymaster about an allowance, and they have received no answer at all. I imagine, though probably wrongly, that in the offices of many of these paymasters, piles of letters and correspondence from individuals are steadily increasing, with nothing really being done to help people who go on wondering what has happened, and who in the end come to believe they are being treated unfairly. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman let the various record offices and paymasters know that it is their duty to keep things up to date and to reply to queries, however silly they may sound, in order that the dependants of men in the Forces shall not feel that they are being treated with silent contempt? A good deal was said the other evening about the medical side of the work, and some hard things were said about some of the hospitals. Is the Secretary of State really satisfied that the Royal Army Medical Corps is properly doing its job? I know that it wants to do its job, but I am rather uneasy at the number of men who are finding their way into the Forces when they are obviously quite unfit. It is certain—I do not say that the number is large, but it seems to be more than it ought to be—that in a fair number of instances men are being posted to the Army when they ought not to be in the Army. I myself submitted a case to the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, and I have not yet received a reply, although it is over two months ago. The case is so blatant that it has found its way into print, and I have the cutting here. It refers to a man in the area that I represent. He was passed A.1, home service, and ordered to report at Sheffield on 1st December last. His right eye is missing, and at the time of his medical examination he was drawing compensation for an injury he had sustained while at work, when his left hand was crushed. Twenty-two stitches had had to be inserted. At the time he was passed fit and sent to Sheffield, he was also attending at the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary twice a week for treatment. It appears to me—and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it would appear to him and to any reasonable person—that a man in that condition obviously was not really fit, and it would not have taken even a doctor to see that.
Was the man called up under the Military Service Act?
Yes, he was called up under the Military Service Act.
The hon. Member will realise that the administration of that Act does not come under my Department.
But I sent particulars of the case to the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman some two months ago, and I thought that I would have received some sort of a reply to the representations that I had made. As far as I know the man is still in the Army. In the same cutting of the paper containing details of this case, a similar case is reported from the same area. It relates to a man who was in the Army for three weeks before it was discovered that he had only part of his left foot. I do not wish to labour the point, but I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that possibly young doctors, coming into the Royal Army Medical Corps for the first time, are imbued with the idea that a lot of men are anxious to swing the lead, and may be inclined to push them into the Army, when honestly and obviously such men ought not to be there.About a fortnight ago my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) asked a question dealing with osteopaths. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would consider making use of the services of osteopaths in the Army, and the right hon. Gentleman indicated that, if osteopaths also possessed a medical degree, he would be willing to consider the use of their services as and when that was possible. As far as my knowledge goes, there are only seven osteopaths in this country who also possess medical degrees, and if he limits the services of osteopaths in the Army to those who possess a medical degree he will lose the experience of many men who might be extremely valuable to the Army during the war, and after it. I, of course, hold no special brief for osteopaths. Until fairly recently I held the usual view that the practice of osteopathy had something to do with bone-setting and that there was not a great deal in it, but I have since discovered, through an instance which came under my personal notice, that there is a very great deal in it. It is now a responsible profession. I will, if I may, give the House an account of a case which came under my personal notice. A friend of mine sent his small daughter to a secondary school in the country, and during term-time she was jumping and injured her leg. The school doctor was called in, examined the leg and prescribed treatment for her, and everybody thought that it would only be a question of time before the child was better. However, the leg continued to give trouble, and other doctors were called in, but still the leg did not respond to treatment. Eventually Harley Street specialists were consulted, and for a year or more treatment was carried out, at considerable expense. It was apparent that the leg was withering and that as the child grew up it would be shorter than the other. In the end, my friend took the child to an osteopath. They went into the consulting room, and, in preparation for the osteopath's examination, the child began to take off her shoe and stocking. The osteopath said that he wanted the child to strip. The child was stripped completely naked, and he touched a certain spot on her back, and said, "Does that hurt?" and she nearly jumped out of her skin. The osteopath not only diagnosed the trouble, but he was able, quite easily, to perform a complete cure. I suggest that had it not been for the skill and knowledge of that particular osteopath, that child would have grown up lame. Cures of this kind are now being performed by osteopaths all over the country. It is an old-fashioned view to imagine that members of this profession can be of little use to the Services unless they also have a medical degree. One might as well say that it is dangerous for a general practitioner to be let loose among the public unless he is also expert in the same sort of knowledge which an osteopath possesses. I hope it will be possible to overcome the feeling which general medical practitioners have in this matter and that the Minister will sympathetically consider the representations made to him by osteopaths and see whether he can use their services to a much greater extent than formerly. I have no more to say, although there are many other points which one could raise. I would like to join with right hon. and hon. Members in various parts of the House who have, both this afternoon and earlier in the week, thanked the Secretary of State for the sympathetic way in which he has treated points which have been put to him. We hope he will not feel that now he can sit back and rest on his laurels, because there is a great deal yet to do. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will continue to give to the Service what it deserves, which is the very best which the country can afford.
I would like, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the trouble which he took to investigate the information given him by some of us on the subject of unmarried applicants living as wives. We recognise that it was a difficult problem, and we are grateful to him for the alterations that he has made and the trouble that he took to look into the proposals which we put to him. There is one point that I would like to raise in connection with this matter, and that is that we are not altogether quite happy about the position of legal wives who are separated from their husbands, and who have no court orders. I feel that it would be preferable if the position could be dealt with by the Special Grants Committee. It seems to me that commanding officers, who are overworked, can only hear the man's side of the case, and if a wife is far away there is difficulty in making a proper investigation into the circumstances which caused the separation. If the right hon. Gentleman could treat these cases in the same way that he has treated the cases of apprentices and students, and allow them to go before the Special Grants Committee, it would probably be a far better way of dealing with these particular people.I want to say a word about hospital administration. I am sure the whole House is extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for his investigation of this matter, and the many alterations which have been made in the system. I was particularly glad to hear his reference to voluntary societies and to the greater use which would be made of the Red Cross Services. But I want to ask whether we could have a re-examination of the schedules of equipment which have been drawn up. It is very difficult for backbench Members to find out which particular section of the War Office is responsible. I understand that actual equipment is a matter for the Royal Ordnance Department and not for the medical side of the War Office. A re-examination and reconsideration of the schedules with, perhaps, their subsequent alteration would help towards the comfort of the troops. It seems to me that the proportion of hot-water bottles to the number of beds in medical posts is quite inadequate. Although I realise that only slight cases of illness are supposed to be dealt with in these posts, most of them would be better nursed if there was a proper supply of hot-water bottles. The schedules—and I believe the same thing applies to some of the hospital accommodation in France—require modernising in accordance with modern thought. Another thing that I would like to ask the Minister to examine is the question of the nursing of troops being put into the hands of the Ministry of Health in civil hospitals. I do not think a division of responsibility for nursing makes for efficiency. I understand that part of the difficulty which has occurred during the epidemics of influenza and German measles is that the civil hospitals have not wished to take severe cases, and, consequently, there have been cases, which should not have been nursed, being detained there because the civil hospitals have not been willing to accept patients. I can quite see the tremendous battle which goes on behind the scenes, with the result that the patient has to put up with not quite the same standard of nursing that he should get, while the battle continues. I cannot help feeling that it would be much more satisfactory if the whole of the hospital arrangements were in the hands of the War Office rather than that this divided responsibility should be Continued. It would be more suitable and more efficient if there were some hospital accommodation, between the big civil hospital type and the small regimental type, on the lines of the hospitals which were established during the last war. I am not impressed with the fact that many public institution hospitals are now being drawn in to provide hospital treatment both for troops and the civilians who necessarily have to go to these hospitals. The Minister has given such attention to the whole matter that if he would re-examine this position, I think he would be able to arrive at a more satisfactory solution of this very difficult problem. I would like to deal with the question of the calling-up of men who have criminal records. I do not know a great deal about this particular matter, but I understand that the calling-up of these men to units in which there are young and immature men is causing anxiety to the Army authorities. I do not propose to make any suggestions as to the course of action to follow, because I am not in a position to do so, but I hope the Minister will consider this matter and see whether it is possible to separate the people with criminal records from young men who are being called up. I would wish to say how much I would like to appreciate the alteration which has been made with regard to dependants' allowances, but I cannot understand why the concessions were announced with such great satisfaction by the Minister. It seems to me there is something wrong with Treasury psychology. Why could not the increased concessions and allowances have been announced in the first place? It is better to go into the facts and give a fair allowance at the start than have one scheme after another brought forward for the country and the House to examine. I am quite certain that the Minister was aware of the criticisms before they were made. I believe that the Treasury psychology is this: "Here is a scheme. You see what the country has to say about it, and, if the country will not accept it as fair, come back and we will give you a little more." I dislike that sort of thing, and I think the Treasury gets off very lightly, I would like to see a few debates on Treasury machinery. If there were, I would express myself very forcibly, although I recognise that my right hon. Friend, behind the scenes, probably puts up a battle. The same thing applies to hospital equipment, payment, and the general conditions of the troops. I suspect the Treasury all the time, because they have no contact with the man in the street. They sit cooped up in Whitehall without any human contacts whatsoever, and if we go on to other matters dealing with troops, there will be more battles with the Treasury. I hope the Minister will suggest that the Treasury should bring forward a fair scheme at the beginning which will meet with the good will and co-operation of the country and not have these upsetting perpetual battles. We are reasonable people in this country, and we like a fair deal. There is another matter which has just been brought to my notice. The Northumberland public assistance committee have sent me some particulars of men who have been returned at the request of the Admiralty for work in the shipyards on Tyneside. These men have left the Army and their wives' allowances were stopped at the date of discharge from the Army. The men have come home with five or six shillings in their pockets, and some time has elapsed before they have been able to get absorbed into the industry and draw wages. They have gone to the Unemployment Assistance Board to ask the Board to help them out until they draw their wages. The Unemployment Assistance Board have given a ruling that these men are not eligible for unemployment allowances. Consequently you have the spectacle of men returned from the Army, at the request of the Admiralty, having to seek public assistance. I do not think that in any circumstances whatsoever any man or any dependant of any man serving with any of the Services should be compelled to have to go to the public assistance committee. I am quite aware that I am springing this particular difficulty on my right hon. Friend, but the letter from the public assistance committee has only just reached me. I do hope, however, that he will take action to see that in future these men are not forced to apply for public assistance. I will send him full particulars of the cases. In conclusion, I should like to offer my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on what he has been able to do so far at the War Office.
As the Army grows so the interest of hon. Members in this House, and of the public outside, in the Army and the men in the Army increases. The hon. Lady who has just spoken raised a question about the intellectual and moral condition of young soldiers in the Army. I would like to raise a question concerning young officers. We are all impressed by the interest which officers take in their men, and I would like to suggest that some interest should also be taken in the position of young officers. Frequently the young officer has not had a great deal of experience, and in some cases he is, for the first time in his life, put in possession of a cheque book. Without experience a person may get into difficulties, and inexperience regarding cheque books sometimes results in strange consequences. There is a story of a lady who had recently opened a banking account and drawn cheques. She met her bank agent in the street and in the course of a short conversation with her he told her that she was overdrawn. She wanted to know what that meant. "Oh," he said, "it means that you owe the bank money." She replied, "Well, that is a very simple matter, I will just write out a cheque."
Was that in Scotland?
No, it was in England. England, and especially the Bank of England, owes a great deal to Scotland. I would suggest that if a kindly personal interest were taken in young officers by a senior member of the mess it would be advantageous not only to the young men themselves but to the whole unit. As an officer myself during the last war I was conscious of a certain lack in that respect which resulted in difficulties, and in some cases in sheer disaster. My regiment was the Royal Artillery, but in the course of my career, for a short time I was an hon. member of an infantry mess. The first night of my association with that mess, when I was getting ready for dinner a knock came to my door. I said, "Come in," and then I heard footsteps and a quite obviously youthful voice said: "Will you have a hand at bridge after dinner?" I did not stop adjusting my tie at the very small glass in front of me, and I said, "I am sorry, but I never play bridge for money." Then I listened for footsteps going away, but there was no sound of that, and looking round I saw a young subaltern infantry officer with cheeks flaming and eyes flashing, and he said to me rather hotly, "I did not ask you to play for money." "Then," I said, "I will be very happy to have a hand at bridge." Perhaps I have said sufficient to indicate a line that might well occupy the attention of a senior officer in almost every mess, certainly in every mess where there are young officers. I think it is appropriate that a word on this particular topic should come from these benches. The young officer does require a helping hand.Now I will turn to a different matter. As I looked at the new definition which the right hon. Gentleman has adopted in place of the very short description "unmarried wife," it occurred to me that there may be some doubt as to the exact meaning of the new definition. The term "unmarried wife" indicates, of course, that two people are living together who have not been married, but it does not indicate whether or not one of them has already a spouse. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he has chosen a definition which is unduly narrow. The words used are "unmarried dependant living as a wife." Does that mean only an unmarried woman who is living with a soldier who has already a wife? I sent particulars to the right hon. Gentleman of the case of a woman who was a married woman but was living with a soldier to whom she was not married, before he was called up. Is that woman to be cut out from the provisions of paragraph 4? According to the literal reading of the words which the right hon. Gentleman has used in his new definition I think she would be cut out, and I should like to be assured by the right hon. Gentleman that it is not his intention to cut out such a person. Then, again, I think we ought to consider the limitation contained in the words "living as a wife." Let me put to the right hon. Gentleman the case of a man who is a widower with children. There comes into that home an aunt to act as housekeeper and look after the children. That is a perfectly respectable situation, and there is nothing there to warrant the description "unmarried wife." The woman may be the widower's sister or the sister of the deceased wife. Is she to get the benefit of this provision, or is she to be cut out? That is an actual case that was brought to my notice by a member of the staff of the Palace of Westminster. I think I have stated that in such a way that my source of information cannot be identified. This is a practical question, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to think it over. It is a case of a woman who is denying herself in order to devote her attention to her nephews and nieces who are motherless, and she surely should come within the definition of dependants who are entitled to receive allowances. There is a question of a rather different type which came to my knowledge just after the outbreak of war. I brought it to the notice of the War Department by a question in the House. It relates to the children of a woman married to a soldier. Those children are living with the soldier and his wife, their mother, but the children are illegitimate. In order that these children may receive allowances, War Office procedure requires that the soldier should get for these children an adoption order. In Scotland that means that both the husband and the wife have to apply to the court for an adoption order. Notice what that means. It means that the mother is being put into the position of applying to the court to adopt her own children, and that, in Scotland, is regarded as a revolting position. This is merely a matter of evidence, a matter of proof. The right hon. Gentleman when he was speaking about the other case said that the real question is one of dependency. In the case of what was formerly the unmarried wife that question could not be a decree of the court. Why should the War Office require a decree of the court in the case of these children? The cost of getting that in the case of working people, especially poor working people, is very considerable, and very material. I cannot say exactly how many cases the right hon. Gentleman will find in the War Office files, but there is certainly one case brought up by me which was the subject of Questions in this House. In that particular case, the solicitor did the work in the court without charge, but there was still the fees of court to be paid. Why put working people to the expense of getting this decree? The solicitor wrote me in terms of astonishment that this requirement should be asked for. These adoption Acts are an innovation on our common law. In Scotland these children who are brought into the home when it is set up and who are the children of the wife, have always been looked upon as members of the family. When another child is born into the home all the children are dealt with together. There has never been any difference between one child and the other. I notice that I received back from the War Office my own letter dated 9th November, 1939. The matter has been under the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman's Department ever since then, and it was pressed by me before that date. In consequence of the fact that nothing was done, I wrote a careful memorandum setting out the position for the consideration of the Department. I understand that the file has grown and grown, and no doubt the red tape round it has grown until it may be yards long. Surely if the question is one of the fact of dependency, that is material and quite distinct from any question of a decree of the court. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman's Department would accept the certificate of some responsible person, say a minister of the gospel, that these children were, in fact, maintained in the soldier's home from the time of marriage, until the soldier went into the Army. That is all I ask. I do not want to delay the House but I should like to join with hon. Members who have spoken in thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the step forward he has taken. I do not want to go into details in regard to the amounts—they are certainly inadequate—but I do think that there is a definite endeavour to go forward. We have a big job and we are all united in doing it. We will go forward until freedom has been vindicated and the aggressor laid low.
It is not my desire to attack or defend the Secretary of State for War or the War Office. The thing which concerns every Member of this House is whether the material available is being put to the best use. One realises the extraordinary difficulties which arise when our forces are magnified tenfold, and I think that hon. Members might consider methods of approach in trying to get the best use of the men who have joined His Majesty's Forces. May I suggest that we should refrain from asking questions until we find that redress cannot be obtained by communicating with the right hon. Gentleman? Let me give an example from my own experience. A man with qualifications as a surveyor was found acting as a batman. That was obviously absurd. The case was brought to the notice of the appropriate authority and he has been sent to a training centre for officers. In another case, a fully-qualified electrical engineer is employed in carrying ammunition from the stores to the guns, and back again. Obviously a waste of good material.The third case is also of a fully qualified surveyor, aged 33, with a pilot's certificate for flying. He was rejected by the Air Force on the ground that he was too old. I am not criticising that decision. He was urged by the recruiting sergeant to join the R.A.S.C. as drivers of motor vehicles were badly wanted. He joined that unit on 30th November. Up to date, a test lasting less than a quarter of an hour has been the beginning and end of his driving. One would have thought that with so many young men able to drive a car there would have been no dearth of competent drivers, and, again, I suggest that that man should not have been employed as a driver and would have been of much greater service and of greater advantage to the Army in using his technique and his skill, than as the driver of a vehicle. Every hon. Member has cases brought to his notice, but again I suggest that it is not helpful to put a series of questions and make criticisms until we have exhausted every effort to get what we consider to be an injustice put right. My practice is to communicate with the right hon. Gentleman giving the full facts and asking for their consideration. Realising that there must be thousands of such letters going to the War Office, one cannot expect a reply immediately. Several hon. Members have dealt with the case of widows who are dependent on the earnings of a son. I have such a case in my constituency. The woman is nearly blind—she cannot see well enough to read. Her son allotted her £2 a week before he was compulsorily enlisted. That surely is a case for sympathetic consideration by the right hon. Gentleman. Application has been made by me on her behalf but nothing has happened. One is justified, in such a case, in raising it in the House and in criticising a Department which fails to do what to my mind is the common duty of the State towards that mother. But the Department which does call for criticism more than any other is Command Pay, a most mysterious office. I have never understood it, and I never hope to understand it. If any other hon. Member in this House understands what Command Pay is, he is an artist. I have a case of a man who allotted his wife 7s. per week from his pay. Up to last Monday not one single penny had been received by the wife. I think it is fair to the War Office to say that I telephoned them and attended there, and that they wanted to put things right, but, apparently, nothing has been done. I wrote to the Secretary of State for War and the reply I got began—
There was not a word about family allowances in the application. The facts are that this man's money has been stopped, and then at the end of 2½ months, I am informed that he has been placed in credit. That, I submit, is a most improper procedure. A man elects to allot to his wife 7s. of his pay and it is not optional for Command Pay to determine that the man's pay shall go to his credit. He does not receive it, and it is his wish that the wife should have this 1s. a day. I have no doubt that this case is not an isolated one and that other hon. Members have many similar cases. I say that such an injustice ought not to be possible. After making an allowance for that amount Command Pay must accept it, and although an hon. Member telephones to the War Office and attends there and calls the Minister's attention to this irregularity, nothing happens."With reference to family allowances."
Will the hon. Member give me the name of the case?
Certainly. It is the case of my own son and there can be no doubt about it. I speak with the highest authority. He gave up a living of £1,000 a year to earn 2s. a day. That is the case. The man's wife has not received anything. The fact that her husband makes her an allowance out of his private income has nothing to do with the case. The man enlisted on certain terms and those terms ought to be rigidly observed by the Army. Another matter to which I want to refer is that of stoppages. The men are told that 2d., 6d., or 1s., whatever the amount may be, is to be stopped for barrack-room damage. That term is a vague and elastic one. Sometimes the men are not even told why the stoppages are made. If damage is done, either wilfully or accidentally, it must be repaired, and the men who caused it must pay for it. However, under the system that exists, there is a deduction for an unassigned reason, and I submit that that is not a proper, right or just proceeding.Finally, I want to refer to disabled men. At the end of the last war, there were tens of thousands of disabled men for whom very little provision was made. Although there has been no great battle fought and no great number of wounded men, there must inevitably be a certain number of casualties when there is a large congregation of troops. Men come back injured and disabled. My plea is that more provision should be made for these men—not a disability pension which is totally inadequate, but some system of housing accommodation for the men and their families. There could be no more appropriate time than the present to have these buildings designed and erected, for there are many unemployed in the building trades. I do not suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should at this moment make any reference to my suggestion. I throw out the suggestion in order that it may not be lost sight of. It is one of the after-war matters which should be considered, not immediately, but in the near future, in order that we may avoid much of the suffering which was unnecessarily inflicted upon those who took part in the last war.
As there are many hon. Members who wish to raise cases of serious hardship which have arisen as a consequence of men joining the Army, I shall confine my speech to putting one or two questions to the Secretary of State for War. The first case to which I want to refer is a rather important one. There has been a great deal of discussion about the position of the unmarried wife, for whom the Secretary of State has coined a new definition. Provision has been made for the unmarried wife. I want to deal with the opposite position, because I am attempting at this time to wrestle with such a case, and I find no guidance in the White Paper.I know of a case where the husband was separated from his wife. He went to his commanding officer and stopped the allotment from himself to his wife and two children. The woman concerned is one of the most honourable women I have ever met, and I know that the record of the man is not a desirable one. For some reason or other, when he joined the Forces, he stopped the allotment from his pay, and at the present time the wife receives no payment for herself and her two children, and is in receipt of public assistance. I can find no provision, either in the Minister's statement or in the White Paper, for dealing with such a case. In that case there is greater hardship than there is in the case of the unmarried wife, who may receive an allowance from the soldier, and it seems to me that some provision should be made to meet that hardship. In my constituency we have taken the precaution of creating a voluntary committee, and in the town in which I live there is a voluntary committee which has a personnel of 156 voluntary workers. This committee has kept a complete record for every man from the town who has joined the Forces. I can tell the House that although the district is a small one, between 500 and 600 men from it have joined the Forces. In addition, the committee has a complete filing system which embraces all the known records of every man. The committee has gone into all these cases and has made applications to the War Service Grants Advisory Committee for supplementary allowances in cases where there was hardship. When the Grants Advisory Committee makes a grant, the committee keeps a record of it. I can tell the Minister that there is a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction in that district because there is a feeling that the Grants Advisory Committee is breaking faith with the men who have joined the Forces. On 21st December, I came to London with a deputation from my constituency and we obtained from the Grants Advisory Committee the guiding principles on which cases should be worked out. I have been astonished to find that in a great many cases the awards of the Grants Advisory Committee have been far less than we had expected, and they are creating hardships. A great deal of approval and praise has been expressed in regard to the new allowances, but the question I want to put to the Secretary of State is whether the allowances mean that there will be additional money, and if so, to what extent will additional payments be made in the shape of allowances? It is stated in paragraph 11 of the White Paper:
As I read that paragraph of the present White Paper, following upon the White Paper that was issued last November, it means that everyone of the special grants which have been made under the Grants Advisory Committee will be withdrawn, and those grants will be adjusted in accordance with the new allowances which have been announced by the Secretary of State. I gather that paragraph 12 has no relation to this matter, as it is an arrangement to deal with apprentices. Frankly, it appears to me that the new allowances can be summed up in this way. The arrangement is a pruning by the Treasury. It is a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I think it is highly desirable, while approval and praises are being expressed to the Secretary of State, that somebody should point out that something is being taken away from what the Ministry of Pensions award to-day and is being passed back to the Secretary of State for War in the new allowances which he is to make. I do not think that the country will be satisfied at all with that, but if my interpretation is wrong I hope that when the Minister comes to reply he will correct me. The Minister knows well that the whole country at the present time is watching what is being done by him, as well as by the Grants Advisory Committee. We all have hundreds of cases of intense dissatisfaction brought to our notice. Every Member of the House is anxious to do all he can to make the lot of the soldier as comfortable and as happy as possible. We are united in our efforts in that direction but we are also united in our efforts to ensure that the mothers and wives of serving men shall be in no worse financial position than they were in before their sons and husbands went into the Army. I do not see that idea implemented in the White Paper. I think the dependants will be considerably worse off and that hardship will arise."In cases falling under paragraphs 7 to10 in which the dependant is at present in receipt of a special allowance from the Ministry of Pensions on the recommendation of the War Service Grants Advisory Committee, an adjustment of such allowance will normally be necessary if an allowance, or increase, is granted from Service funds, and the Ministry of Pensions' grant may in these circumstances cease to be payable."
:I hoped that I might have the opportunity of saying a few words as chairman, for many years past, of the Parliamentary Medical Committee, seeing that the Secretary of State made perhaps what is the most detailed and, from our point of view, most sympathetic statement on medical services in the Army of any of his predecessors during the 20 years that I can remember as a Member of this House. My mind goes back to my maiden speech, when I took up the question of medical services in the Army and tried to show what great benefit they could render to the Army and to the country in keeping people healthy and in increasing the strength of the Army. The then Secretary of State for War, now the First Lord of the Admiralty, thought fit to ridicule what I said—that an Army should be healthy if defeated rather than unhealthy if victorious. That, of course, was a travesty of what one wished to say.I do not think it is always recognised, in regard to complaints, that we are dealing on such an immense scale of things with all the improvisation necessarily involved. I do not think that it is always recognised that the prime duty for the health of the troops is not merely the treatment of the sick but keeping them healthy and making them stronger. The medical services' prime duty is to prevent ill-health and to increase the strength of the Army, both morally and physically. I am very glad that the Secretary of State laid emphasis on what is very little recognised, although definitely laid down in King's Regulations—as a result of a committee which reorganised the Army Medical Services at the end of the South African War, of which I was assistant secretary as a young medical man—that the responsibility for the health of the troops does not lie primarily with the medical officer but with the combatant officer. It is definitely laid down that the officer commanding a unit, brigade, battalion, company, or platoon, as the case may be, is the one responsible for the health of the men. The officer commanding, if he does go against the advice of the medical officer with a serious sense of his responsibility, is right to do so, because even medical officers are sometimes wrong. I do not think this is sufficiently understood by a very large number of commanding officers in the field, and also among junior ranks. It is true that it is impressed upon all the Regular Army officers, and I think they understand and recognise it and make full use of their responsibility; but the officer who goes out, especially in the Territorial Army, has not had the same military training and is seldom apprised of the fact. Many of us have had instances over and over again of complaints brought to the commanding officer of a unit, where the reply is, "Oh, that is the responsibility of the doctor." It only shows that the commanding officer does not realise that he has the final responsibility for seeing that things go straight. Many of the complaints we hear of, and many of those we receive by letter, are complaints, if proved true, of sheer default of one kind or another and of responsibility which has not been definitely carried through. A little common sense on the part of the commanding officer might quite well have prevented some of the trouble. We are always having these complaints of one kind or another, and I sympathise with the War Office and their officials over the way in which the complaints get abroad and into the papers before investigation has been made. Very often the complaints are written about as if they were actual facts—and they are most damaging to the War Office, to the troops and to the friends and relations of those concerned—before they have been properly investigated. Only this afternoon I heard that, as a result of considerable investigation, it has been shown that 80 per cent. of complaints brought to a certain responsible quarter have been proved to be without foundation. There was a case which a Member of this House brought forward on what seemed to be most reliable information. He had been informed that in a military hospital there were 140 deaths from pneumonia, but on investigation it was found that in fact there were only three. It is disgraceful that things of that sort should be circulated before investigation, and yet they are asserted with every show of reality. I want again to impress on this House and also, through the Press, to the public generally, how careful, they should be before accepting tales of mishaps, irresponsibility, neglect and defect. It would be quite wrong when we have complaints to try and hush them up in any kind of way. It would be wrong, of course, for the War Office to hush them up, and I hope the Secretary of State himself will recognise that when we send cases to him for investigation we look to him and his officials, with a full sense of responsibility, satisfying us either that they are without foundation or have been exaggerated, and that, if necessary, proper action is being taken. There is a tendency, when cases are investigated, for the officials responsible to suggest that it has all been a mistake and a misunderstanding and that everything has really been quite correct. Certainly that has been so in a number of cases brought to the notice of the War Office by Members of this House. But there have been cases of great discomfort, unnecessary discomfort, and some of slight neglect, but nothing like as bad as has been suggested. This should be recognised, and I hope the Secretary of State will give us a reply, and not try to hide up the facts where there has been investigation. In some instances things have not been as well as they might be, but we all know the position to-day, where troops have been brought into being and mobilised to an extent not considered possible even 12 months ago. There must be some mistakes. Officials are only human beings, and some will not be perfect. Mistakes will slip through, but so far as we have examined them in our Parliamentary Medical Committee, and so far as I have heard, there are very few which could be attributed to real neglect and very few causing great suffering. Especially in the earlier weeks and months of mobilisation and during the very hard two months of winter, there were deficiencies of one kind or another, with hardships. Let us again recognise that the equipment and stores of the medical authorities are provided, not from the medical side of the War Office, but from the Ordnance Department. It is an old complaint of the medical service that they have not commanded the equipment; but that is an internal question, and we need not worry about it now. One point which was brought home to me very much in early service in the South African War was the question of waste. Soldiers invalided very often are absolutely idle until they have completed their convalescence; the same thing, of course, applies in civilian life. Often an ailment trails out for a great many weeks and months, but if only the men could be given a definite occupation, to go with the definite hope of recovery, they would recover very much more quickly. We used to hear about rehabilitation, and the theory and practice are most important. It has assumed a very great development in civilian life and especially in the case of fractures. Fracture clinics devoted entirely to treatment of injuries to the bone can, by this treatment, obtain recovery in a fortnight in cases where otherwise it takes two months or more. The same thing is required in the military service. You want to see that no longer are men kept hanging about doing nothing. You want to distinguish definitely between the period when they really feel ill and the period of convalescence. In the arrangement which has been made in this war, unique and quite different from anything that was expected, or that has been practised before, when soldiers are invalided home from overseas they go into civil hospitals under the Emergency Medical Service. In other words, you have uniformity of treatment and uniformity of hospital supervision. That has great advantages, but also certain disadvantages. When a man is convalescing, it is all to the good, if he is going back to Army life, that he shall be under military discipline and be rehabilitated. I hope a clear distinction will be kept, because when the soldier is really incapacitated it is no question of discipline. Treatment in the civil hospital is as good as in a military hospital, and generally, naturally, it is better. When once a man gets to the convalescent stage, I hope arrangements will be made for him to be transferred to a military convalescent camp, where he can gradually be rehabilitated. That leads to a much wider problem. Under the arrangements that have hitherto prevailed, if a man is no longer fit to return to duty, he becomes a client of the Ministry of Pensions, which has the business of getting him back to his occu- pation if it can. So you have a considerable extension of work under the Ministry of Pensions, and again now under the Ministry of Labour you have these training camps. I think this rehabilitation scheme, which is so much wanted at present, ought to be extended under the Ministry of Pensions to those who cannot return to duty, those who have been crippled by the war, and it ought to be worked in combination with the schemes in ordinary civil life similarly required for rehabilitation. One of the most graphic instances we could have is that of the treatment of chronic tuberculosis, which has had such splendid results in the village of Papworth. There the patients, after being cured, instead of returning to home life, where they would probably again relapse, are found actual occupation and their families brought to live with them. That is a concrete example which has been followed to some extent elsewhere. That is the kind of rehabilitation that we want to see, so that men who are injured in their country's cause may be trained in order to lead useful lives after their service is over. We have to look at things on new lines and see new developments. We have to have new developments in the light of experience gained in the last war and what has been done since in regard to nervous disorders, and I hope a great deal more will be done to provide for these terrible cases. I saw a film yesterday at the Royal Society of Medicine, shown by one of the leading physicians of the day, who in the last war discovered a simple treatment for some of these nervous cripples. They are able to perform miracles. We saw these cases which were dealt with between 1917 and 1919, actual cases of men who had come back from the front, perhaps after weeks or months of increasing misery in hospital, tottering along for this new treatment, practically like idiots or children. They were most tragic cases, but after half an hour's treatment in some cases, in others three hours, in others two or three days, they were practically able to take to their ordinary work again, and after a week or so we saw them again serving as farm hands because of the sympathetic and sensible treatment they had received. That has to be done close up to the front line in order that they may get back to self-control and back to duty quickly, instead of getting the mentality of the permanent invalid. There is only one other great development which is still wanted and which I hope will be pursued. That is a great improvement in the dental service, of which we have many complaints. Finally, there is the question of the women personnel. I do not believe it is necessary always to have women medical officers to look after women, but you want a certain number of responsible and experienced women medical officers who can help in laying down and guiding policy and arrangements and organisation for the work of the women personnel and to direct them in the way they should go. I believe the Army Medical Service has made a good start in this war. They have an extraordinarily sympathetic Secretary of State at their head and I hope we shall be able to do our part to support them, to investigate complaints, sympathetically but sternly, and then to pass them on in order that anything that is wrong may be put right, as I feel sure it will be.
The Secretary of State on Tuesday made a very comprehensive statement and left the House with the impression that, from the standpoint of education, recreation, labour, housing, feeding, clothing, equipment, medical services, health and general morale this was the best prepared Army that the country had ever had. Probably every Member will agree with the impression that the right hon. Gentleman conveyed. He also gave us to understand that it was the best paid Army we have ever had. That does not say very much for the past, when we consider the payment of the serving soldiers and the allowances to their dependants. He also made a statement in regard to allowances which has been broadcast throughout the country, a statement for which the Government is endeavouring to get a great deal of credit, and which has made men and women believe that something greater was to be done in the future than was done in the past. It is a confidence trick played by a Government which does not deserve the confidence of the country or trusting and unsuspecting people. The allowance is only transferred from the Military Service Assistance Committee direct to the Government. It may be more permanent in character, it may not be subject to review so often, but the amount will not be any greater.I am sorry that the hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) is not in his place. Like many others, he stays here about five minutes, gets the eye of the Speaker and walks out immediately he has made his speech. I will make one or two comments on the statement that he made. He complained about Members on this side being concerned only with the conditions of the men in the Army and with the allowances, and he compared the conditions of the serving soldier to-day with those of 25 years ago. Some of us who were private soldiers in those days are very glad that the conditions are a great deal better now. The hon. Baronet forgets that the social conscience has developed in a quarter of a century and that Members on all sides of the House would not tolerate conditions for the serving soldier such as existed in 1914. Let us see what the Secretary of State said.
I would ask the Secretary of State whether that liberty is represented by the Prime Minister's statement to the representatives of the trade union movement when they asked him to remove the wretched restrictions imposed on the working class by the Trade Disputes Act of 1926. It makes it difficult to accept the view that the Government believe in the liberty they talk about, when we get answers of that kind from the Prime Minister. Is the justice represented by the extension of the household means test to the dependants of the serving soldier? I would ask the Secretary of State to review this matter so that the allowances shall really represent an advance. Our men in the Forces have demonstrated that they are equal, as I believe they are superior to anything else in their line in the world. I believe that when the moment comes for them to show their calibre they will demonstrate that in courage, capacity and determination they are equal to the best traditions of the armed forces of this country. We are anxious that the Government should do what is right by the dependants of the men in the Forces, for we can only get the best, and can only have the right to expect the best from the men, if we set their minds at rest with regard to the welfare of the people they love and have left at home. A good deal has been said about the medical services by hon. Members more competent to speak about them than I am, but I would urge the Secretary of State to see that the medical examination for the men who are called into the Army is more complete and thorough than it is now. We are asking—and I hope the public conscience will compel the Government to support us—that if the Government take a man from industry and put him into the armed Forces of the Crown, and death or incapacity comes to him while in the Services, his widow or he himself, as the case may be, should be entitled to a pension. I will give a typical case. I have the papers of more than 100 cases in my locker and many of them have been sent to the Secretary of State. This is the case of a man who joined the Supplemental Reserves in 1938, was called to the Army in September, 1939, examined and pronounced fit, and sent to his unit. In November, he was sent home on a month's leave pending a medical board. In the criticisms that we make on these cases, I want the Secretary of State to remember that we make them for the purpose of drawing attention to these cases and not because we want to cramp his style or impede those who are charged with the responsibility of carrying out the work of the Army. We want to draw their attention to the inequalities which exist and to some things which seem to us to be very inhumane. This man was recalled to his unit on 8th December, sent home again on nth December, and discharged towards the end of January. He died on 1st February, and his widow is not entitled to a pension. The Secretary of State has that case now before him. We claim that when the Government take a man into the Army they must be responsible if he breaks down owing to inefficient medical examination, or for any other cause. We have heard to-day a good deal about the unmarried wife. I do not pretend to be a great authority on that subject, but I want to say a word about the married wife who has had some matrimonial difficulties and has a court order against her husband who has joined the Army. The difficulty which women have to face in those circumstances is to get the court order implemented. Am I right in supposing that the Government are now taking the responsibility of meeting the court order which a woman may have against her husband who has deserted her? If I am right, I would ask the Government to get on a bit of speed in these cases. The long, worrying and weary waiting time that these women have is disgraceful. I have here the correspondence in the case of a wife who has been endeavouring to get her position settled since last October. Her husband is in the Army and she has a magistrate's maintenance order against him. The Government have taken the man, but they have refused up to the moment to give the woman satisfaction. It is little satisfaction for her to be told that it will be all right in a month or two, for in the intervening period she has to live. Not many of them care to go to the public assistance committee. They believe that when their menfolk have been called to the Army by the Government, the Government have a certain responsibility to them. We ask the Secretary of State to expedite the settlement of these cases. There is also the case of a woman who is not married and has a court order against a man in respect to her child. Will the same principle be applied to the magistrate's order which such a girl has as is applied to the maintenance order of a wife against her husband? There is, too, the question of the foster mother which is being sadly neglected. I would like the Secretary of State to tell us, plainly, where the foster mother stands now. I will give a typical case which I have sent to him. It was referred to the Military Service Assistance Committee and when I explain the case and tell the House the amount that has been granted, I am confident that every Member will feel ashamed that it is possible for a woman to be treated in such a manner. This is the case of a man who served with me in the Army in the last war. He was a victim of gas. Immediately the war was over he was anxious to get back to civil life, to the woman he loved and to his children. He got out of the Army as quickly as he could and did not bother about applying for a pension. In the course of time he died as the result of the gas, leaving four children. A few years later his wife died also. The four children were left with no one to look after them until a friend of the family, a widow with one child, took upon herself the responsibility of making a home for them. Two of the boys, now grown up, joined the Territorial Army, being imbued with the spirit of their father, and in September last they were called up. They left behind them two younger sisters. They made an allotment to the woman who had kept the home together. I suggest that that woman should be treated in the same way as the wife of a soldier, capable of receiving a soldier's wife's allotment plus the allowance for the two children. What do we find? An application to the Special Grants Committee is turned down. The case is referred to the Military Service Assistance Committee under the procedure of Form 21, and after much consideration this woman is allowed 5s. a week—not 5s. for each child, but 5s. for the two of them. That is not the way to inspire confidence in our people. I am saying this because I want, if I can, to awaken the consciences of those who are responsible for carrying out the work of this Government, and not because I want to impede the national effort in any way. I have expressed my opinion on the allowances generally and I am glad that the Secretary of State for War is now here, because I would rather say what I have to say about him when he is present. I repeat that the statement made about the increase of allowances is more in the nature of a confidence trick played upon a trusting people than anything I have known for a long while. It will mean only that allowances made by the M.S.A.C. will be made by the Special Grants Committee, and not that the individuals will get anything more. Throughout the country soldiers' dependants think they will get an increase; they will get a disappointment. I wish the Secretary of State had faced the position more boldly. No one will deny the statement which is made that we have to-day the best paid Army this country has ever had, but it is not good enough. Look at the position of a wife with six children. This is the case of a man who is a corporal. Out of his pay of 28s. he makes an allotment of 21s. to his wife. which shows that he has a regard for his home and desires to make things as comfortable as he can for his wife and children. What the wife receives is 17s. a week, with an allowance of 21s. for the six children, making, with the husband's allotment, 59s. in all. Out of that 10s. goes in rent. When in industry this man was earning 96s. a week. The M.S.A.C. turned the application down when the wife asked for assistance. That is the sort of thing which people ought to know, because it is too often imagined that every wife or dependant has only to make an application to the M.S.A.C. and the money comes along. Thousands of people who thought that have had a tremendous disappointment. Out of the 59s. the woman has to pay 10s. for rent, there are all the other overhead charges to be met and there are seven people to live on what is left. Anyone who has brought up a large family will know that with six healthy and strong children all may want a pair of boots the same week, and that makes the 49s. look very sick indeed. It is within the realms of possibility that that woman may have two evacuated children quartered upon her. Imagine the position she will then be in. The husband is in France, and the woman has all that anxiety on her mind, and his children, living under the same roof as the evacuee children, have to be kept for about 5s. each a week while the allowance for the evacuated children is considerably greater. I do not say that the allowance for the evacuated children is too much, but that the allowance for the children of the man whom we are asking to risk his life is not commensurate with the sacrifice we ask of him. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to review the situation. Further, I ask him to make it more widely known that the M.S.A.C. Form 21 is obtainable. Perhaps it is hardly credible, but even to-day when people make application for the form at post offices which pay dependants' allowances the officials in charge say they know nothing about it and do not believe that any such form exists. There ought to be a notice in every post office where soldiers' dependants draw their allowances telling them that they can make application for this form. Then, if the postal officials should say they know nothing about it, the dependants could at least refer them to the notice in their own post office. The only further point I wish to make is in regard to highly-skilled artisans being retained in the Army and doing work which, in many instances, is futile or useless. It my constituency two firms are engaged in Admiralty work but the Government are taking some of their key men away. In some instances, these men, we know, are doing fatigue work in the Army, and that is not looked upon as real soldier's duty. These men have specialised knowledge of the industry and they could be rendering greater assistance to the successful prosecution of the war as expert artisans in industry than in doing fatigue duty in the Army. If the Secretary of State for War thinks that I have been extreme in some of the things that I have said, I can only reply that I say them because I know them to be true and in the hope that they will act as an inspiration to him to take action. I do not think it good that he should have too many kind words said to him and I believe he would be the last man to try to escape from criticism, as long as he thought that the criticism was honestly directed to him. What I have said has been in honest criticism, with the object of removing many of the difficulties, inequalities and injustices which are, we believe, being perpetrated on soldiers' dependants to-day. We want the Army, as well as being well equipped in all the ways which I outlined earlier, to feel that those of us who are at home in comparative safety, because those men are a living bulwark in front of us, are doing our best to make certain that the women and children they left behind will be well cared for."The events that led up to Munich showed many of us that, if a conflict was not absolutely inevitable, it was dangerously near. Also it showed, if a conflict had to come, what the nature of that conflict had to be. We could see fairly clearly against whom we should be fighting and with whom we should be fighting. It was obvious that, in any clash that was to come, we should be fighting by the side of France in the cause of liberty and justice."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1940; col. 1031, Vol. 358.]
I join with others in the courteous tradition of this House, and extend my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman for the length of time that he has been with us in these Debates. Some weeks ago, when the Press stated that very few Members were present, I sat on that occasion, as I have done to-day and did on Thursday last, throughout the Debate. I am glad that we have the right hon. Gentleman with us. I view with some alarm the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Dunn) that the congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman will be interpreted to mean that the scales which the right hon. Gentleman now brings forward are such as we, on these benches, and the country, can accept. The position which existed before the introduction of those proposals still exists, and, as a matter of fact, there is general dissatisfaction in the country.This dissatisfaction is not restricted to people associated with the party to which I belong. It extends to members of all political parties. I was privileged, not in my own division but in that adjoining, a week or two ago to be present at a gathering, not one individual at which, I should think, has ever voted for the political tendencies for which we, on these benches would vote; but there, without exception being taken, references were made to the ungenerous action of the Government in the treatment of certain men. I believe that the vice-chairman of the local Conservative association was one of the main protagonists for the improvement of these scales. When the last discussion took place in this House on this question, complaints were made that the people who are fighting the country's battles had to operate a complicated system in applying for allowances. We said there was great delay in settling claims, and we denied that such claims, if they were granted, were at all adequate. I have spent some little time to-day with the White Paper of the right hon. Gentleman, as I am sure many other hon. Members have done, and I think it has made the system no less complicated. The continuance of the means test has made the system worse, if anything, in that regard. As to delay in settlement, I can well believe that some people have had the idea that they should go to the War Office purely and simply for the settlement of their grievances, but now that they are being transferred to an advisory committee the delay will be more intense than hitherto. I wonder why the Government deal with questions of this description in the manner they do. Why do the Government seem to work to a plan of bringing forward particularly low scales, and, when public ire has been aroused and indignation exists, why do they not give attention to the matter? They make concessions only in a very niggardly and grudging way. Picture what the effect will be on the fighting men themselves, of the Minister's statement which was made on Tuesday night. Complaint was made at the continuance of the means test as applied to the dependants of serving men. The Financial Secretary to the War Office replied:
It is sometimes said that when we complain about anything done by the Government, the danger is that an individual who speaks from Germany over the air may make news of the matter. I wonder whether the wireless is blaring forth the story to-night to those lads of ours in the front line:"I am not going to attempt to-night to argue the virtues or the sins of the means test issue. The means test is an institution, which, whether hon. Members opposite like it or not, has come to stay."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1940; col. 1142, Vol. 358.]
"Where there are no shops to shop in, or no grand hotels,
I wonder whether across that front line to-night is going the suggestion that our men's dependants are to be subjected to the means test. Why do we feel particularly keen from these benches about the application of the means test to these men? We object to the means test as applied to all people in this country. It is bad enough, in all conscience, to have it applied to old age pensioners and to the unemployed, but the suggestion from the Government Benches is, in bland terms, that the soldiers similarly are giving no service to the State. Although a man may have been compelled to join by conscription in the emergency of war, yet he may have been doing a fairly decent job. He joins to do what? To enter into an occupation on behalf of the State with more hazards than those he normally has and then receive this shoddy treatment. I want to ask a direct question. Why should a means test be imposed upon dependants of soldiers and not on ourselves as Members of Parliament or upon people in positions of State? These soldiers are doing a more serious and more hazardous job than are we and people in high places. Further, these men are being taken at a vital stage in their lives. These early years are so important to them. I feel doubtful when we are told that the dependants of serving men will be better treated in this war than in the last war. Because of the meagre allowances in past wars the great heart of the public was touched, and funds were created in order to give financial help to serving men and their dependants. For instance, there were contributions from industries. By the application of this most vicious means test, public sympathy is welling up for these men. We complain that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman place the income limits of the family on too low a basis, and too little regard is paid to the advantages which would have been provided for the household in civilian life by the son who is now a soldier. We must concern ourselves not merely with the means and the needs of people when people go out of the household into the Army, but also with the standards that would have operated had these men been allowed to remain in civilian life. On page 6 of the right hon. Gentleman's White Paper, he says at the top of the page:Where you spend your time in dug-outs, doing a roaring trade in shells."
When this operates I wonder whether the country will express satisfaction. I wish to mention one particular case in my constituency of a widow whose husband died a few years ago, and she was left with a child. This woman has brought this child to young manhood. She has gone out charing to make up her meagre widow's pension of 10s., and for that charing she receives £1 a week. The suggestion is that because of that standard no regard should be paid to the amount which the son would have contributed to the household had he been left behind. The Government do not concern themselves unduly when giving pensions to people in high places or when making payments to those people, who are now becoming legion, in the various control systems in the country—in short, the Government give particularly good salaries based on fairly high standards—and the Government should also consider any improvement that may have occurred in the circumstances of a family. We have this position in our Yorkshire minefields. A young boy, being a liability, looks forward to the time when to some extent he can repay his parents for the sacrifices which they have made on his behalf in the early years. You are taking men into the Army and imposing a condition that they must have made a very high contribution to the household; if the father of that boy is still able to work, no benefit of any description is given. Yesterday there was a by-election in this country. I was glad to see the Fascist candidate overwhelmingly defeated, and I know that view will be shared by my hon. Friends. We all hope that the forfeiture of that particular deposit will be typical of every Fascist candidate in this country. Wherever Fascism raises its ugly head we on these benches will oppose it. I would, however, qualify that statement by saying this. At some time, perhaps during this war, the Government will be tested at some by-election, upon this mean means test treatment of the masses of our population. There is no question upon which the country is more united than that such treatment should not be given to the dependants of those who fight our battles. The time will come when the Government will be defeated on this issue, as they deserve to be, but our enemies at home and abroad will hail the Government defeat, not so much on the question of better treatment of the great masses of our population, but they will assert that the Government have lost the people's confidence on the major issue of this war—that of resistance to Fascist aggression. Will the Government be advised in time? The insults and cries of our enemies are only effects, vile and bitter as those effects are, but the cause is one for which we in this House are responsible. I say to the Government of this country: In the just and generous treatment of the dependants of our serving men and others lies the opportunity to strike a decisive blow at the enemy and to strengthen our country."The new 24s. rate, like the old 20s. 6d., is restricted to a dependant living alone, or in a household without other income, and entirely dependent on the soldier, and is subject to his having previously made a net contribution of at least 24s. a week."
While understanding that the first consideration of the Secretary of State must be the needs of the Army, I would like him also to consider the position of skilled craftsmen who have been retained in the Army. We know that skilled craftsmen are wanted for shipbuilding and repairing. This House has already declared that it is absolutely essential, so long as we have to depend on the high seas for our supplies, that we should have merchant vessels to bring those supplies. I have a case in point. A skilled craftsman employed in a shipyard in my division was called up, as a reservist, for the Army. He suffers from bad feet, and is unable to wear Army boots. I thought that here, surely, was a man who could be of little service in the Army, and that, as he was wanted in the shipyard where he is normally employed, there ought to be no difficulty in freeing him. The shipbuilding firm applied for his release, and the Boilermakers' Society, of which he is a member, also applied; but the Army refused to release him. Knowing that the First Lord of the Admiralty was so keen on shipbuilding, I thought that he might be able to use some influence with the Army. I got a letter from him yesterday, however, confessing that he also has failed. That is astonishing. I was under the impression that, although others had failed, the First Lord certainly would not. But evidently the Army is stronger than the Navy in that respect.In my division there is a number of tenant farmers, whose farms are family concerns. I have made application for the release of several key men for those farms. In one case, I was able to get a man released, but only for two months. In that case, the farmer had been asked to plough up a considerable acreage of grassland—the Debates we have had in this House have shown how urgent is the necessity for growing more food—yet the Army refused to release this key man for any longer than two months. From one very large farm, several key men were taken into the Army. The farmer applied for their release. The Army refused. Then, strangely enough, the farmer was asked to employ a conscientious objector. While I have every sympathy with a man who has conscientious objections to shedding human blood, I think that some discretion should be shown in the placing of such men. You can imagine the feeling of a father, whose son has been called up for military service, and who is asked to employ a conscientious objector, who is, moreover, unskilled, and, therefore, useless for the job. Also, the conscientious objector himself is placed in a very invidious position. I wish to refer to the question, which has been raised to-night, of the medical examination of men called up for the Army. It is true that Nelson, in his day, rendered good service with one eye, but there is no evidence that the other eye was defective. I have a case of a lad who has lost an eye and whose other eye is defective. He had to wear very strong glasses and suffered severe headaches, yet he was put into Grade I. While home on leave he went to a Sunderland hospital, where there are some of the best eye specialists in the country. They sent me a graph, showing how his sight was affected. I sent that to the Minister of National Service, and the man was placed in Grade 2. Surely it would be wiser to keep such a lad in civil employment, rather than to place him in the Army, where he can be of little service.
Like the Minister, I have sat here throughout the Debate. I think my colleagues have directed all the criticism that can be directed against the new scale of allowances; I want to refer to one or two cases which concern my own constituency in relation to the Army. I had better first describe the town in which I live, and explain that it is situated in my constituency; otherwise, my points may not be quite clear. The town is a medium-sized town, with a population of 39,000, an area of about 10,000 acres, and about 10,000 inhabited houses. It is a mining and hosiery town, in which the shift system of working is in general operation. We have about 1,000 soldiers stationed there. Every available room in the town has had to be commandeered for them. Some of the men are quartered in public houses, and now it has become necessary to resort to billeting them in ordinary houses. The citizens of that town areas patriotic as citizens anywhere else. The hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) has suggested that we should not in any way exaggerate grievances; and with that, I agree. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) has suggested that we should not even talk about them, but that, I contend, would be a very bad thing. We are engaged in building up a vast organisation and if anybody can contribute to its smoother running, it is to the general advantage that he should do so.Somehow or other, the commanding officers in this town do not seem to receive adequate notice of the number of the recruits coming on a given day. The con- sequence is that we have had them going round at half-past ten or eleven o'clock at night, knocking people up. They go along whole streets doing that. Some of the miners go to work on the morning shift or the afternoon shift, and then on the night shift, and it is wrong to put troops in at such places in those conditions. The practice is to knock at a door, get somebody up, and say, "Here are two soldiers; you must put them up for the night." There is no general objection by the people to putting soldiers up, though I might point out that the pay is only 2d. per head per night. [Interruption.] Oh, yes. They take their own mattresses, and the householder receives only 2d. per head per night, which hardly pays for the light they consume. It is the same amount which is paid when soldiers are quartered in public buildings. It seems to me inadequate. I know that the payment is higher if beds are provided by the householder, but in the majority of cases they are not. I should think that commanding officers could be informed earlier of the number of men who are coming, so that steps could be taken earlier in the day to find accommodation. The men could then be taken straight to the accommodation. This seems to me to be purely a question of bad organisation. It is not wise to offend the householders of a town in that way. These people are willing to do their best to assist in the successful prosecution of the war, and these irritations are quite unnecessary. It is unnecessary, too, to irritate tradesmen. I do not know whether the Army ever pay for anything; certainly, it is a long time before they do pay when they have contracted an obligation. Sometimes they enter into obligations, which, it does not seem to me, they are likely to meet. I understand that it is very desirable that soldiers should have their hair cut regularly. I suppose that there are some regulations in regard to that. On 11th November, when troops were first brought to this town, the commanding officer went to a local hairdresser and made arrangements for the troops to have their hair cut. The original commanding officer falls ill and his place is taken by the captain, who becomes acting-major for the time being. The front part of the hairdresser's shop, like many other similar shops, is set apart for the sale of cigarettes and the hairdressing establishment is behind. The new commanding officer goes into the cigarette department to buy some cigarettes and sees on the door a notice to the effect that troops requiring their hair cut must not come at certain times. They are taken on most occasions by the corporal or the lance-corporal, and then the hairdresser, not my personal hairdresser but my constituent, receives a letter from the commanding officer as follows:
That has been going on since November, and I wonder when the hairdresser is to get his payment. The arrangement was made with the first commanding officer, and it was cancelled by the second. Surely, some of these little things should be inquired into, and I am sure that if they are, the machine will move with less friction and irritation. Places have been commandeered for the billeting of these men, and negotiations for compensation go on month after month, but no money is forthcoming. I am told that only one cheque from the War Office has been seen in the town since the troops came there in November. I only intervened in the Debate in order to say a few words, which, I hope, will have the effect of avoiding in future these irritations and annoyances which cause people to be generally dissatisfied with conditions. They can easily be avoided by better organisation and a better liaison between the Departments. Knowledge of geography, I think, is bad at the Department of the Ministry of Labour. [Interruption.] It concerns the Army, or I could not refer to it. When I arrive home from London on Friday night I have to get out at a place called Sutton Junction. We have an engine and about two coaches to run us up to the town, but we have to change at that junction. Usually, on a Friday night, a number of recruits coming to join the unit in the town reach Sutton Junction. They have had a warrant given to them available as far as Nottingham. The address is Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottingham, so that somebody evidently thinks that the town is Nottingham, and the men are given a warrant for Nottingham. When they get to Sutton Junction they have to pay 1s. 9d. excess fare, and sometimes the men have not got the money. Somebody is making a mistake, which, with a little more care and examination, could be avoided. I will not keep the House any longer, but I believe that these are points which need to be looked into."It has been reported to me that men of this unit are having their hair cut at your establishment without payment. Please note that men must pay for their hair-cutting at the time. It is not a regimental change."
I think that the Minister will agree that the Debate that we have had to-day ought to be the coping-stone of the demands made from this side of the House for adequate treatment for the wives and dependants of our serving men. I would like to draw attention to several points with the object, if possible, of the avoidance of mistakes in the future. I was rather under the impression from the speeches of some hon. Members that men were not being called up fast enough, but I believe that many of the complaints about which we have been hearing of men not being properly fed have largely arisen as a result of the rate at which the men have been called up without adequate provision having been made at the places where the men have been billeted or put into camps. I do not think it has been a question at all of scarcity of food, but largely one of inadequacy in handling it when it has come to the question of cooking and preparing it. I urge the Minister to give special consideration to this matter because we are still hearing complaints of the inadequacy or the quality of the food that the men are being given.I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman ought not to depend too much upon the reports he receives from his own officers in camp. Those of us who have been miners have had some experience of the way in which reports come to hand, very often coloured by the quarter from which they come. The authorities ought to go a long way to give satisfaction to the mothers of the lads who may have gone away from home for the first time, by letting them know that their boys are being well fed and adequately treated. One of the things which struck me in reading the Memoirs of Lawrence of Arabia was that in the last war a part of the training was undertaken to see how long men could go without food. I know that it is a question of endurance, and that it is necessary in campaigns to be able to stand up to hardships, but if our men are to stand up to hardships, then, by all means, let us give them food of the best quality. There is another thing about which I would like the right hon. Gentleman to be very particular. Most of us on this side of the House and hon. Members opposite as well, have had scores of cases of applications for pension arising out of the last war. If there is one thing which makes a member of my party, including myself, really happy it is to be able to point to a case where a pension has been granted after we have made an application. The thing upon which we have invariably failed, the rock upon which we have stumbled, has been the fact that there was some pre-war condition in the man that made him subject to the disease from which he had died. Therefore, I would like the right hon. Gentleman to be very particular about this matter. If our men go into the Army this time A1, and they come out less than A1, then there ought to be adequate compensation or recognition of the difference between their existing condition and their condition when they leave the Service. What makes me draw attention to that is this: I had a case this week, which is not exactly in the right hon. Gentleman's Department, of a man who went home from duty and was so ill that he was unable to return. When it was reported to the commanding officer that he was confined to bed, he was ordered to report to his medical officer the next morning. But the man was unable to do so, and his wife brought in his own doctor, who certified that he was suffering from lobar pneumonia. This was reported to the medical officer, who went to the man's house and, after examining him, said it was only muscular pain. Since then, however, the case has been duly established and certified as pneumonia. If that man happens to be invalided out of the Service, and claims a pension, there will be no record, so far as the Army medical authorities are concerned, of what was the matter with him, and he will, therefore, have great difficulty in establishing a claim for a pension. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) drew attention to the question of discipline and said we should remember that a man now going into the Army has been a civilian for 20 years and a soldier for 20 minutes. I think that is right, and I am asking that we should not make an inverse ratio of the discipline because he has been such a short time in the Army. As miners we have been disciplined from the age of 13 and know what it is. Men now going into the Army have worked in mines and industry and have been disciplined by the stern fact that during the day or night they have had to present themselves for work or starve. Therefore, I ask that in disciplining our men we should not be too drastic.
I would like the matter to be clear. My point was that men who have been citizens for along time, and soldiers for a short time, were not punished by military law but by civil law. None the less, they were described as soldiers, which I felt was rather hard luck.
I am anxious about this, because I happen to know of men who have been disciplined by civil law and then, having met the bill, have been disciplined by Army law. I want to ask a question arising out of the new White Piper and I ask it because of the experience we had of having to wait so long when we made our applications for allowances. We were sometimes waiting so long that some of us got into serious trouble; our constituents thought we were neglecting them. The reason was that the answers went on to our constituents sometimes three weeks before they came to us. Where there will be readjustments or increases in allowances will the existing allowance continue until adjustment is made? I would like the right hon. Gentleman to keep that point in mind because there will be arrears to be made up arising out of adjustments, when the new payments come through, if it takes as long as it did on the last occasion. I wish the staff had been enlarged because it would have saved us a tremendous amount of trouble.I would like to say a word about apprentices. On several occasions, I and other Members on this side, have heard of widows with apprentice sons who have been unable to get an allowance because there was no dependency. That is to be adjusted. Will it apply to young miners whose wages have been low because they have not come up to man's age for wage standards? The question of allowances in regard to apprentices has been referred to the War Service Grants Advisory Com- mittee. Would it not have been just as easy to have paid them through the usual channels by recognising the wage paid immediately after the apprentice had left his apprenticeship standard? I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can do anything about court orders, but there is a great deal of feeling in this matter and it lies here: A court order is made, 10s. 6d. is deducted from the man's pay, and then an application is made to the War Services Grants Advisory Committee, which makes up the amount to the court order. The feeling is that in many cases, when a court order is granted by a magistrate, the whole of the circumstances are taken into consideration, and rather than fix the amount that ought to be fixed the court fixes a sum which a man is likely to pay rather than have him in court. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to look at it from that point of view, because it is the women who have the responsibility of bringing up the children, and rising costs are against them. Now I want to make a rew remarks about these scales. As they are set out they are misleading. You see from the scale that if the contribution exceeds 9s. and does not exceed 15s., then the dependant gets 12s., or if the contribution exceeds 15s. the dependant would get 17s. It would be more true to say that the dependant gets 5s. from the Government in the one case and 10s. in the other, because the rest is made up by deductions from the soldier's pay. There is a question I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman—I do not know whether he can answer it to-night—about the position when a man has a legal wife and an unmarried wife. We have heard so much about the unmarried wife that people are beginning to make humorous remarks on the subject, but wherever there are an unmarried wife and a married wife there is an aching heart. Suppose they are both getting allowances. Suppose there is a court order. In the event of the man being killed, the court order ceases. What will be the position then in regard to pension? Will both get a pension, and, if not, which one will get it? I would like also to make some comparison between the Army allowances and the Unemployment Assistance Board allowances. We thought that the means test under the Unemployment Assistance Board was the last word, but here we seem to have got something worse. Take the case of the wife of a serving soldier with four children receiving Army allowance. With the man's allotment that woman will get a total of 39s., but if her sister also has four children and goes to the Unemployment Assistance Board, she will get 38s., with perhaps a winter allowance of 4s., so that she would be 3s. a week better off than the wife of a man fighting in the Army. Moreover, in special cases such as sickness she would get an additional allowance. She would get perhaps 2s. 6d. for a sick child. There is a discrepancy, too, in the calculations of earnings going into the house. Under the right hon. Gentleman's proposal there will be an allowance of one-fifth. If therefore there is a son in the house who is earning £2 a week, 32s. of that will be taken into account. Under the Unemployment Assistance Board scale, if a son is earning 40s., only 12s. of that would be counted as part of the household income. The other 28s. wouldbe credited to the son as his own personal allowance. It seems to me that considerable injustice arises out of those differences. we have heard a great many kind things said here, but it seems to me that they savour of the same sort of charity that results in an old person receiving a blanket at Christmas time. That is not what we want. I think we ought to recognise that there are several fronts in this tremendous struggle in which we are engaged. There are the home front, the industrial front, the Services, and the Government. We certainly cannot afford that and one of them should be a weak link. I have no fear at all of the Services and no fear of the industrial front, but we must remember that it is on the home front that the waiting is done and that the hardest job is waiting at home for some loved one.
Surely the hon. Member in his catalogue of links has forgotten one important link—His Majesty's Opposition. There are two ways in which it is possible to wind up a Debate of this kind. One is by making a general speech dealing with the main points which have been raised, and the other is by going through the various points which have been made by different speakers and answering them individually. Frankly, my preference in a Debate of this kind is for the more courteous and helpful way, that is, to go through the various speeches which have been made and make a reference to the points which have been made. If that produces a speech which is rather broken, at any rate it will give general satisfaction and the feeling that the individual points put by hon. Members are being met. May I make, first, the general statement that I am very gratified by the reception which some of these proposals have met from hon. Members opposite? That satisfaction depends not only on the speeches of a semi-congratulatory nature but even more on the speeches which were somewhat critical in tone. I detected m them a fear that these remedies will be effective, and that they will cause satisfaction with what one hon. Member described I think as the confidence trick.The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) spoke, as he always does on these matters, with great moderation and also with great force. He was in a rather difficult position, and in fact his innate common sense made him realise that he was in a difficult position. When he spoke for the party opposite in the Debate in January, he laid the main emphasis of his case on the condition of incapacity for self-support, and when I removed that condition it was a little difficult for the hon. Member to say that no concessions were being made. As a matter of fact, he paid generous tribute to that removal, but most of the subsequent speakers did not refer to it at all. As far as they were concerned, it did not exist. But I believe that this provision, judging from the correspondence I have received, was creating about the biggest grievance from which people have suffered. It is very difficult to get accurate information, but from a test inspection which we have taken of the cases which have been refused, we came to the conclusion that something like 20 per cent. of the cases refused were refused on this ground, and, therefore, it is clear to everybody who approaches the question without prejudice that in fact this concession has very substantial weight. It is, of course, true that there are at present, and will be in the future, a large number of applications for dependants' allowances which are refused, and we are told that the result of that is the penury of the household which has been deprived of the allowance. The figures which the Financial Secretary to the War Office quoted on the last occasion, and which I am quoting again, are very significant, but no hon. Member opposite has attempted this evening to give any explanation of them or to answer their purpose. The figures are that of the cases where dependants' allowances have been refused in 70 per cent. of them the soldier then refuses to proceed to give his allotment. If the effect of not giving an allowance has the result, as hon. Members opposite have said, to reduce these families to penury and to leave the soldier anxious about their position, is it conceivable that in 70 per cent. of these cases—some 50,000 in fact—the soldier would refuse himself to make an allotment?
I have the case of a woman who has been refused an allowance. She has to go to the public assistance committee, and the son refuses to make an allotment because his payment to her would be subsidising public assistance.
But there are over 50,000 cases, and it requires some answer from hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street went on to deal with the question of separated wives and asked whether it would be possible to extend the concession made in cases where there has been a court order to cases where the wife has been separated from her husband and no court order has been made. I do not think it is possible to extend that concession.
What is that?
I am sorry that I made the statement while the hon. Member was talking. I have been asked a question about the separated wife where there is no court order. I do not think it is possible to extend the concession in that way to cases where there is no court order. If there is a court order, we know automatically that the wife has been before the court for the order and is entitled to the money but where there is no court order it may be that the wife has deserted the husband.
But is it not almost impossible for the woman to get a court order when the man is serving in the Forces? It is very difficult; almost impossible for the person to get it.
I do not think it is impossible for a court order to be obtained, and I am not saying that the separated wife without a court order cannot get anything. She can still get stoppages from the soldier's pay, and she can go to the Advisory Grants Committee, but it means that her case must be inquired into, and I think should be inquired into, because we are entitled to know whether she deserted her husband and whether she has any claim on him or on the State for an allowance, or whether it is a case where she would not be entitled to a court order and not able to obtain it.The hon. Member and also the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) referred to local committees, and the hon. Member for Ince quoted a very weighty authority that the operations of this machinery would be very much helped by the existence of local committees. I gave earnest consideration to that particular point when I was making my investigations, and I came to the conclusion that, so far as the actual allocations were concerned, where the scale is laid down and where it is a question of fact, such local committees would be a sham. I might have come to the House and made a great song about how I was meeting the wishes of hon. Members, but I should have known that in fact, in those conditions, such a tribunal or committee would have no powers, because it would be a question of facts and not one of discretion. Other considerations may apply when one comes to the Grants Advisory Committee, where it is not a question of hard-and-fast regulations, but a question of discretion. Of course, that is a matter for my hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions, and I will bring to his notice what has been said in this connection about local committes. Finally, the hon. Member, as well as several other hon. Members, referred to the existence in this matter of the household means test. Almost the whole of the Debate has proceeded on the assumption that in every working-class household from which one member has been withdrawn to serve in the Army the financial conditions are worse during the war than they were in peace-time. Is that true? Does not every hon. Member opposite know of working-class households where, even if one member of the household has joined the Army, owing to the fact that other members of it are now in employment instead of being unemployed, or because wages have risen or work is more constant, the income of the household in time of war is greater than it was in time of peace?
The State ought not to profit from that.
There is no question of the State profiting, but the hon. Member for Ince spoke about the difficulty of spreading the burden evenly, and if the war has brought to a household, not a loss, but a gain, then with the great financial difficulties which we have is it right to call upon the State still further to add to those difficulties, when there are many households which have no member in the Army, but which, because of the change-over from peace to war conditions, have suffered a very grievous loss for which there is no relief? When the operations of war can be so uneven, when they can bring, as in the last war hon. Members opposite know that they did bring, to many working-class households an improvement in conditions and greater incomes than they had had ever before, I cannot feel that it is right to accept that, without any inquiry, in every case the State has to supplement the allowance going into the household. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street referred to the practice during the last war. It is true that there was then no means test, but the hon. Member did not go on to say that there was a very definite and very low limit to the amount that could be paid to any dependant.
Everybody got a minimum allowance.
A minimum of 5s. only for certain cases, and a maximum of 12s. 6d. for a private. The arrangement had no reference to need. Some people got 5s. when they had really suffered no financial loss, and the maximum amount which anybody could get, however great the financial loss had been, was only 12s. 6d. in the case of a private. I believe that this scheme, which tries to give a fair meed to begin with, and then allows exceptional cases to be dealt with by the Grants Advisory Committee, is a very much fairer scheme than the one which we had in the last war. It may mean less in cases where there is less need, but it means more in cases where there is most need.The hon. Lady the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) was one of those hon. Members who complained about delays in the payment of these allowances. It is true that at the begining there were very serious delays. The delays have not always been the fault of the War Office. In many cases the difficulty has been that the dependant has sent in an application for an allowance and for some reason or other the soldier has not made his allotment. There has been a very considerable number of cases of that kind where there has been some irregularity on the part of one or the other. Of course, there were bound to be difficulties. There was an enormous expansion in the Army. There was no staff ready before the war to deal with these things, and hon. Members will realise that to increase the staff in a matter such as this, is not simply a question of money, of the Treasury saying, "You shall have the staff." There is a limit to the number of new people who can be taken in at any one time for training with the older staff. If an attempt is made to take in new people too quickly, it simply causes a breakdown in the work of the office. During all these months, we have been continually taking in new and untrained people and training them at the work. That was not a very easy thing to do. However, the arrears are being largely caught up. With regard to the future, the work will be made much more simple by the fact that when the forthcoming classes are called upon to register, they will be able then to make their claims. What we hope is that the whole paraphernalia can be got through before the soldier is called up for service. Hon. Members will realise that the announcement of all the variations contained in the White Paper would open the door to a number of new applications which will all come in together, and therefore, will cause some congestion at the moment.
And in the post of hon. Members as well.
The congestion in the postbags of hon. Members always leads to a congestion in my postbag. I would make an appeal to hon. Members. They will receive a certain number of cases which they will see immediately on reading the letters will not benefit by the concessions which have been made, and I ask them not to encourage applications which clearly will not be successful. The only result of encouraging such applications would be to retard our dealing with applications where the new benefits really are applicable.
Has the right hon. Gentleman any idea of the percentage of people who are not likely to benefit as a consequence of the new allowances?
Is the right hon. Gentleman asking us to take on the job of telling people that he is not going to pay them?
I am not asking hon. Members to do that. I am simply asking hon. Members to give me their help. They have been talking about delays, and I want to avoid delays. A number of applications will be made. I hope that applications not touched by the alterations which have been made will not be forwarded, because if they are, it will only delay the issue of the allowances to the many thousands who will benefit from the alterations.I hope that hon. Members opposite will excuse me if, for a minute or two, I pass to other topics, because some hon. Members dealt with aspects of the Army and military life other than the question of dependants' allowances. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) discussed the question of the appointment of officers, and referred to the importance of the commanding officer's recommendation. The man is now recommended by the commanding officer, but after that recommendation he goes to the Officers' Cadet Training Unit, and I think the training there is just as important, as a test of his capacity as an officer, as there commendation of the commanding officer. I should like to emphasise what I said the other day, that the mere fact that a man is selected to go to an Officers' Cadet Training Unit does not mean that he will automatically get a commission. As a matter of fact, the standard set is extremely high and a number of men do not achieve it, although it is open to them to have another try later on, perhaps; but I am sure hon. Members will agree that the standard ought to be high and that the training unit ought to be something more than a mere formality. The hon. Member for Ince, to whom I am obliged for the kind things he said—more, I think, as one Lancashire man to another than anything else—referred to the importance of adequate training. I can assure him that we are fully alive to the importance of giving people adequate training before they are called upon to go abroad. Of course it is always difficult not to err on one side or the other. If you call people up too soon you are taking valuable people out of ordinary civilian life earlier than you need, and if you call people up too late you have to use them before they are fully trained. It is a point which we have to watch; but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it will be possible to give fully adequate training to these men before they are called upon to go abroad. The hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Molson) raised a series of questions to which many other Members also referred. One is the question of skilled men in the Army and of the necessity of their release for civilian work. I should like to start by reminding the House that skilled men are also wanted in the Army, and if we are to release the men we now have in the Army, we shall have to proceed to call up skilled men out of civilian life. We have, as I told the House on Tuesday, devised a scheme whereby we hope that in the future we shall be able to train all our requirements of skilled men and shall not have to call up anyone who is protected by the reserved occupations schedule. We hope by our system of training, that out of some of the semi-skilled people we shall be able to provide for ourselves. But we cannot do that, if, at the same time, we are to lose a great proportion of the skilled men we already have and on whom we depend.
You have some key men who are not exactly skilled men, if I may use that term. You are taking a tremendous number of young men in the mining industry, who did work which old men cannot do.
I may be wrong but I think the miner is in a reserved occupation at 21.
But you are taking them away and we cannot get them back.
It is a matter of continuous consultation between the Minister of Labour and the industries concerned.
We had better have this point clear. The miner at 21 is not exempt. He is being called up to-day. The mining industry is in constant consultation with the Department in order to save these men whose calling may endanger and ruin the industry.
We are in constant consultation with the Minister of Labour in regard to reserved occupations, and he is in touch with the industries concerned. We have never differed from him. The hon. Member's point is rather different. I do not pretend to know whether the reserved occupation schedule is too severe with regard to miners or whether it is adequate but it is a matter which is capable of adjustment. The problem we are discussing is that of the skilled men already in the Army and not of those about to be called up, and what we are going to do. I started by pointing out that we needed a number of skilled men ourselves and that to allow the skilled men to go, would simply mean that we should have to call up other skilled men from civilian industry. I do not think the House really knows the extent of what has been done in the release of skilled men. My information is that, since the war, the number released, completely and unconditionally, amounts to about the strength of a division, while the equivalent of another division has been released temporarily—sometimes for quite a long time. So I do not think hon. Members can say, if we have released since the beginning of the war the equivalent of two divisions, that the War Office have been taking a narrow parochial view of the importance of the question.
What number does that represent?
I think it gives the House a very clear indication of the sort of scale upon which we are acting. I went to the War Office from the Board of Trade, and, naturally, at the Board of Trade I was looking at the question from the other side. One of the first things I had to do when I got to the War Office was to sign a letter, in answer to a letter which I myself had written to my predecessor, asking for the release of a skilled man. I had to say that it was quite impossible to do so. I fully realise the very great importance of skilled men in industry but the House must also recognise my point of view. Some of these people who may be skilled men in civilian life have entered units in which they have acquired what might almost be called key positions. You have a specialist non-commissioned officer—somebody looking after a Bren gun section or a Bren gun carrier, or something of that kind—and if you take him and six like him out of a unit a few weeks before it goes to France, you ruin it. I have to bear considerations of that kind in mind. The unit itself may have to face the enemy in a few days, or in a few weeks, and I have to make certain that the release of these people, however important it may be to civilian life, is not going to impair that unit in meeting the call when it comes to it.Hon. Members will realise that applications must come through the Departments concerned, because they are the persons who can advise whether the men are really required or not. I have done my best to meet their demands and I have met them in large numbers of cases. I must, however, warn the House that there are certain types of skilled N.C.Os. with great experience and training in units, for example those which are on the point of going abroad, and it is really impossible to release them without a great loss of efficiency. I do not for one moment underrate the importance of the issue raised and I can assure hon. Members that I am not looking at it from any narrow point of view. I have carried my Board of Trade experience with me but I have to weigh the matter in the light of my new responsibilities.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke in a very sympathetic way. I make no complaint at all and fully understand what he said, but is it an entirely satisfactory system under which all these decisions have to be taken by the Secretary of State for War, acting on the advice of his own officials in the Ministry of War? Is there not something to be said for an organisation which is outside the Service Departments that will consider these matters in a judicial spirit, after hearing the arguments from the industries concerned?
If I may say so, that is a suggestion which seems to me quite impossible. I am the person who, in this House, will be held responsible for the efficiency of the unit when it goes abroad. How can I have a committee judging whether certain N.C.Os. in a battalion should go and whether that will make the unit less efficient? I disagree with the suggestion. I take the responsibility. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) referred to the appearance in the headline of such things as "Soldiers in trouble." I think it is very undesirable. One does not see headlines such as "Civilians in trouble," and many more civilians are in trouble every day than soldiers. It is not for me, of course, but for the Press, and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman appeals to me to influence the Press he is probably appealing to the person in this House who has the least influence in this respect. I should be glad if that sort of thing were given up, because it gives a quite unfair impression.The hon. Lady the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) raised several interesting points with regard to hospitals. One is a matter of very great importance to which I referred briefly on Tuesday. It is the question of the relationship between the military and the civilian sides in existing hospital arrangements. I do not regard it as altogether satisfactory. It is a plan which was laid down when the whole emphasis was upon bombing, and civilian casualties which would result from bombing, rather than on land warfare, and the military casualties which might result from land warfare. I am in the middle of a discussion with my right hon. Friend to see whether it is possible to make modifications which will still leave hospitals able to accommodate civilian casualties, but at the same time give more control and greater certainty not only as regards the number but the allocation of beds which we require for military casualties. There is a juxtaposition of two lines in my notes in regard to the hon. Lady's speech. The first is "men with criminal records" and the second is "the Treasury mind." She made what was, in fact, an unfair attack upon what she calls "the Treasury mind." I must pay a tribute to She Chancellor of the Exchequer. People may have thought that there was some fierce struggle between him and me to get the concessions which have been made, but I found him only too anxious to help and to remove any grievances which we consider just. The hon. and learned Member for Greenock (Mr. Gibson) raised a question which has given me the very greatest difficulty. I incline to the view that, if these illegitimate children are to get the dependant's allowance, there ought to be some element of permanency introduced—that the relationship should be shown to be a permanent one and not purely temporary. I feel that that might be done by the simple method of adoption, but it appears that in Scotland, not only is adoption rather expensive, but it is looked on perhaps in a different way from the way in which it is looked upon in England. Certainly, though I can make no promise, in the light of the hon. and learned Member's speech I will look at this extremely difficult problem again.
In Scotland the least that it would cost for adoption is from £3 to £5, which is a clear impossibility out of the soldier's allowance. Will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider it when the man is maintaining the child and has done so for years?
I will look at it again. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn (Sir R. Tasker) referred to a case and gave the impression that he had telephoned and written to the War Office and got no reply at all. It is only right to tell the House that he was seen by the Financial Secretary, and the whole matter was explained to him. I am sure he did not mean to give the House the impression that all his inquiries had been ignored.
I said I had been to the War Office and I was received with courtesy and that they gave me information. The whole fact was that this money had been retained by the Pay office and that neither was it refunded to the man nor sent to the wife.
It was a very difficult case. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) spoke of the medical services. I had the opportunity of seeing him as the leader of a deputation of the All-Party Medical Committee in the House and, though I missed what I am sure was a very interesting speech, I think I know pretty well what his views on the subject are and I think he was reassured as to what we were doing. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) asked if the whole of the court order of a legal wife was to be paid. Yes, up to the limit of what she would have got if she had been a wife living with a soldier or if any less amount she may have previously agreed to accept in settlement of the court order. I will certainly look into the question whether greater publicity can be given to the methods of application for grants. The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Leslie) dealt with the question of medical boards. He will not expect me to answer his questions. He will realise that it is not a matter for me but for the Ministry of Labour. I agree with the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) that any inconvenience to householders in the way of billeting ought to be avoided if possible. I cannot say without examination of the case why it happened. There may have been some unavoidable reason but certainly it ought to be avoided wherever possible. I should be glad to go into the case. I will also look into the case of his unfortunate hairdresser who appears to have fallen between two stools, or rather two commanding officers, and also into the allegation that only one War Office cheque has been seen in Sutton-in-Ashfield since the war started.The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) referred to catering. I would ask him to look at what I said about that on Tuesday. I do not think that the complaints are of the quality or the quantity of food; the real complaint is as to the cooking. The remedy for that can only lie in training, and we are pushing on with that as fast as possible. With regard to discipline, that is not only essential for the efficiency of the Army but essential for the security of the people who are in it. Discipline is a thing which saves lives and that is what we have to rub into everybody in the Army. I agree that the way you apply discipline and teach the men depends on the sort of person to whom you are giving the orders and lessons. I believe it is fully realised that with the type we have got now, keen, intelligent, enthusiastic, wanting to know the reason and wanting to understand, you can get discipline just as good and as safe without the trimmings that were used in the past.
I raised an important question affecting the mining industry of a man who, when called up, is unemployed. In that case will the right hon. Gentleman consider, in calculating the household income, the man's unemploy- ment pay alone or the wages he would get if he were in work?
The hon. Gentleman is referring to the change I made which allows an apprentice to go to the advisory committee. I have not finally settled with the Ministry of Pensions the way in which that will be worked or what limitations we shall have to draw round it. In that discussion I will take into account what the hon. Gentleman has said.
Who is to get the pension in the case I mentioned?
That, again, is a question for the Minister of Pensions, but, as I understand the position, both would be eligible for the pension. There is however some overall limit of the Ministry of Pensions who would have to divide it in some way.
With regard to the question of the married wife and the unmarried wife, she gets an allowance dependent on the fact that the soldier makes an allotment. What is the position of the legal wife who is separated and to whom the husband refuses to make any allowance? In the case I mentioned she is getting assistance from the Board.
Where there is no court order I cannot extend the concession, but the woman is entitled under Army law to a compulsory stoppage from her husband's pay, and she can go to the advisory committee.I would like to finish by thanking the House for the courtesy with which this Debate has proceeded and for the assistance which hon. Members have given. Everybody wants to see the Army happy and contented, they want to see it well treated, and they want to see it victorious. As long as we all share that common purpose, even if we may differ about details, we shall be very helpful to the Army and to each other.
The Minister has appealed to us to help him in these matters, and I should like information on one point, because if people make an application to us and are not entitled to what is asked for we have to tell them so.Paragraph 8 of the White Paper states that in calculating the net weekly income per head of the household, which determines whether an allowance is granted or not, a deduction will be made of one-fifth of the earnings of each member of the household except the dependant and the dependant's husband or father. I am puzzled about that. Is there to be no one-fifth deduction in the case of the dependant and the dependant's husband or father?
I dealt with that point in my speech on Tuesday. I said that while I was immediately making the deduction in the case of the others I was separately considering the cases of those specified, who stand to some extent on a different footing.
Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
Remaining Resolutions agreed to.
Air Estimates, 1940
Number For Air Force Service
1. "That such number of Officers and Airmen, as His Majesty may deem necessary, be borne for the Air Force Service of the United Kingdom at Home and abroad, excluding those serving in India on the Indian Establishment, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941."
Pay, Etc, Of The Air Force
2. "That a sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Pay, etc., of the Air Force, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941."
3. "That a sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of Civil Aviation, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941."
Air Supplementary Estimate, 1939
Additional Number For Air Force Service
4. "That such additional number of Officers and Airmen, as His Majesty may deem necessary, be borne for the Air Force Service of the United Kingdom at Home and abroad, excluding those servivng in India on the Indian Establishment, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940."
First and Second Resolutions agreed to.
Third Resolution read a Second time.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
I do not want to launch a long discussion, but I wish to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary to one matter. I have already raised it in a Parliamentary Question, and the reply I received was that it was being examined, and was found to be a difficult one. I should be grateful if he could now tell me what stage has been reached in the examination. The subject of civil aviation was raised the other day, and many hon. Members regretted that the war was interfering with its development. I share that regret, and regret further that the action of the Government appears to be handicapping severely the prospects of restoring civil aviation at the end of the war to the position it occupied before the war. I refer particularly to civil aviation inside this country. I am not sure of the number of civil aviation firms that run lines in this country, excluding those run by the railway companies, but I think it is between seven and ten. They have given excellent service to civil aviation inside the country. Our position, on this side of the House, is that aviation should be a national concern, but that position is not accepted.Those companies are at present not allowed to continue, owing to the military situation. One can quite understand that, but the Government have taken over the machines of those organisations, which were run by well-equipped and experienced people, who desire to remain in some sort of practical existence ready for the end of the war, when they can resume operations. They are told, however, that they cannot obtain satisfaction in that respect, and they are practically disbanded. Their aeroplanes are taken over and they are given to understand that, when the war is over, they can go back to the old conditions and restart those civil aviation companies. That, of course, is quite out of the question, unless a skeleton organisation is allowed to remain and to employ the valuable services of those people. As it happens, the railway companies are exempt from these conditions. They are allowed to continue, because their services go across water, they are told. The fear of those firms is that, at the end of the war, they will have no aeroplanes and that there will be no particular reason why they should be given an advantage by the Government against other kinds of competition. The railway companies have carried on all the time, their machines not impressed at all, but constantly in use for civil aviation purposes. They will have a virtual monopoly of internal civil aviation. We—or at least, I, for I am speaking on this point for myself—think that is a rather unfortunate possibility. If we can get an assurance from the Under-Secretary of State on this point, it will be very useful indeed.
In a very few moments I hope I shall be able to answer the point put by the hon. Gentleman. We have had to consider in what way, in order to win the war, we could best use the equipment of civil aviation, either by taking it over or by using it for Royal Air Force purposes. We have had to apply that principle to internal lines and equipment, and we have decided that we are justified in allowing sufficient equipment to be retained in civil aviation to keep certain internal lines operating which are of national importance. We consider the definition of "national importance" to be, broadly, where a line goes over water and there is no alternative form of service of land transport.It is purely fortuitous that the lines which conform to that definition are in the main those which have been associated with companies in which the railways have interests. Take, for instance, a line to Jersey, a line to Belfast and certain lines to Scotland going over water; we would consider those as being in the national interest. But while the Royal Air Force needs equipment badly, we could not consider the continuance of other internal lines, such as lines running to the East coast or to the Midlands. It is fortuitous that these companies which have held licences in peace-time on those routes overseas are companies which now continue and are associated with the rail- ways. As regards the rest of the companies, we are requisitioning their equipment, and there will be ample opportunities for skilled personnel either in the Royal Air Force, in the aircraft industry or in other forms of industry as our national munition effort gains weight. We are allowing only barely sufficient equipment to maintain these lines of national importance, and indeed, contrary to what the hon. Gentleman said, those railway companies which are to be allowed to retain their equipment are going to have at least half of it taken away. We shall allow them only just sufficient to run those lines of primary importance. The other companies will have their main equipment requisitioned. I would submit to the House that the incidence of war hits everyone individually, to either a small or great degree, and indeed it hits many commercial enterprises which have had their trade taken away, and which have been virtually wiped out of existence. These companies are indeed more fortunate than other commercial companies, in that they have been maintained with financial provisions which up to the present time have prevented them incurring any losses at all since the outbreak of the war. They will have their equipment taken over at a reasonable price and their personnel will have opportunities for reasonable employment. As to the state of civil aviation after the war, I cannot say. No one can say how much money we shall have for assisting such enterprises. Therefore, we cannot say what will be the condition of civil aviation after the war, and I do not think we should be justified, in dealing with the companies now, in holding out hopes that, at the expense of the taxpayers, we should set their organisations going after the war. The railway companies which are continuing to run will not have sufficient equipment to expand over the routes which these other companies have been running on hitherto. To-morrow afternoon my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is seeing the representatives of the companies which are particularly affected. He will explain to them the situation, but I trust that I have succeeded in reassuring the House and the hon. Gentleman that there is no favouritism to the railway companies, that we are trying to deal fairly and reasonably, but while the Royal Air Force urgently requires all these aircraft in order to fulfil its obligations to the Army we must put these things first.
There is just one more point. These aeroplanes are obviously for Army co-operation, because as civil aeroplanes they cannot be used for military purposes. Why should these companies have their planes taken over in order to do Army co-operation work?
I can explain that in two sentences. These machines have been used for Army co-operation work before and since the outbreak of war. We find that it is not satisfactory to have a civil organisation fulfilling a direct responsibility of the Royal Air Force to the Army. Further, we are now having to expand the numbers of aircraft required for this Army co-operation work. There are no more civil aircraft available. We should have to use Royal Air Force equipment and pilots for the supplementary need. We should then have the extraordinarily unsatisfactory position of having a half-civil, hall-military organisation, which is manifestly impracticable if we are to fulfil our obligations to the sister Service with maximum efficiency.
With regard to the negotiations with the light aeroplane clubs, can my hon. and gallant Friend give an undertaking that some agreement will be reached at the earliest possible moment? The negotiations have been proceeding for a long time.
An agreement can always be reached if both sides are willing. We are anxious to come to an agreement. In fact, the clubs have received a letter to-day from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, which puts the position very fairly, and shows that we have the desire and the intention to requisition the greater number of civil aircraft. We have taken 84 so far, and we are going to take another 258, leaving another 102 small lighter types, for which we have no use. If the clubs approach the matter in the same spirit as we do, there will be no difficulty in coming to a solution.
Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.
Fourth Resolution agreed to.